In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about hobbies for founders.

The life of a founder, and entrepreneurship, in general, can be very stressful. In order to avoid burnout and stress-related illness, it’s important for founders to disconnect from work and do other non-work related activities, and picking up a hobby is a great way to do this.

In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about whether having a hobby is a good idea, why you should decide if you’re a marathon runner and a sprinter, the benefits of hobbies and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:23 Why this topic was chosen.

03:06 Whether having a hobby is a good idea.

04:11 Why you should decide if you’re a marathon runner and a sprinter.

06:20 How most people go through different phases.

07:03 What Hiten hobbies are.

08:00 Why Hiten’s hobbies are not seen as traditional hobbies.

09:52 What Steli’s hobbies are.

10:29 The benefits of martial arts to Steli.

11:23 How Steli views his hobby. 

3 Key Points:

  • Are you a marathon runner or do you like to sprint?
  • Some people might operate best in certain situations.
  • I don’t particularly have any hobbies at the moment.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah.: And this is Hiten Shah.


Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about hobbies for founders. Should founders have hobbies and a life? Should they not have them? Are there good hobbies and bad hobbies? Let’s just quickly talk about this and kind of unpack it for our listeners from our perspective. So I want to set this up with a story. Many, many years ago and I’m going to have to be careful, I can’t use real names, but I remember being at an event where one of our angel investors had invited us to, this is 2011 so long time ago, we had raised a small seed round back then and for what we were doing, and this is like a legendary [Angelo Messi 00:00:00:57] or somebody, everybody really knows in the start-up world, and I remember sitting in the audience, he was giving a talk and one of my co-founders is a super passionate skier. He loves the outdoors in general. He loves hiking, but he especially loves skiing. And remember at some point of the presentation of that angel investor, an angel investor going on on a rant that if you want to be a founder and now that it’s great skiing season, every weekend you want to go hit the snow and ski, then you know you need to figure out your priorities. He would never invest in people that waste their weekends for lifestyle instead of putting focused effort into their work and outworking their competition. I remember looking over at my co-founder, this angel just had invested in us. He just didn’t know that my co-founder was a passionate skier at the time and so we looked at each other and we both had to smile and laugh so much. And then Anthony, my co-founder, whispered in my ear, “Let’s not mention to him that I’m going skiing this weekend,” and we had a laugh about this and that stuck in my head. The is it a good idea or a bad idea to have hobbies? I feel since 2011 in the last nine years, a lot has changed and I don’t think that that same angel investor would be on stage telling the same story again and telling people that founders with hobbies or with interests out of work are not fundable. But I’m pretty sure he still holds the belief, but I think it’s not as politically correct to voice those. And a lot of people’s minds have changed over the years. So I wanted to unpack this for the founders, especially the earlier founders that are listening to us and are wondering, is it a good idea for me to have a hobby? Is it a waste of time? Should all my free time be dedicated to the company that I’m starting to get off the ground and if I have a hobby, are there good ones and bad ones? What do you think about this? How do you think about that?


Hiten Shah.: I find this one funny. It’s like one of those things that, “Hey, there’s these things that people have said about how to be a founder or what the rules are for starting a business, doing a startup, whatever it may be.” I know people who basically the way I would break this down is, are you a marathon runner or do you like to sprint?


Steli Efti: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Hiten Shah.: And I think that’s what matters because if you’re a marathon runner, you’re okay. You’ll go at a sustained pace for a very long time without stopping and you’ll be okay with that. Your body will be fine, your mind will be fine, your feelings will be okay. If you’re a sprinter, you prefer to go as hard as you possibly can for as long as you can. And then you want to stop and then you want to rest and then you want to do it again at the same pace, which tends to be pretty aggressive pace. So I think you should decide whether you’re a marathon runner when it comes to work or you’re sprinter when it comes to work. Because that’ll determine whether you take a break or not. And to me that helps determine whether you know what type of hobbies you should have maybe or whether even a hobby is right for you. I think that’s the way to think about it. This is a recent analogy that I came to by talking to somebody on my team when we were just discussing how different people are and what their energy requirements are. I think it has a lot to do with energy. I don’t think it has to do with, “Oh, you need a hobby, you don’t need a hobby.” I can totally get that angel investors point. I see the point they’re trying to make, which is you have to work hard for this stuff, right? And sure, some people got lucky or will get lucky, but at the end of the day the work is what gets you lucky. So keep doing the work, keep showing up. And regardless of what day it is or what your hobbies might be. I get that. That being said, some people truly burnout if they try to marathon it when they’re really sprinters and if you’re sprinting and you really prefer marathons, you should really think hard about that too.


Steli Efti: I also think that it’s also a question of a phase, right? So some people might operate best in a certain way forever, right? They’re always sprinters or they’re always marathon runners but most people, I think they go through different phases. There’s a time in life where you feel the energy and the desire to sprint and then there’s a time in your life where you might have to change the pace of the rhythm of your work, right? And you have to run at a more endurance pace versus an all-out sprint. And that’s fine too. I think that’s a difficult thing that people… We all get stuck in one mode of identifying ourselves and our success with and then when life changes we’re not willing to change with it and maybe change up our pace and change up the cadence in which we do things and how we do things that is more appropriate for that phase of our lives and of the work that we do. So let’s make this more specific because I think it might be a little bit fun for people to hear this because I think we’re very different, but I think there’s a lot of commonalities in here. So I’m going to ask you a question I already know the answer to. Would you say you have hobbies and if so, which hobbies are those?


Hiten Shah.: Yeah, I don’t really particularly have any hobbies at the moment. I think your point about people depending on, in their life, being in different modes, I think that makes all a lot of sense. I don’t have hobbies. When people ask me that I’m like, “Okay, I have two things that I enjoy doing. One, I do enjoy thinking about other people’s businesses and two, I like playing with my kids.” That’s about it.


Steli Efti: I would add actually a couple of other things as well. I think that… Like my observation of you and I might be wrong, [crosstalk] is that you have a ton of… You could look at them as a ton of little tiny hobbies, but they’re not seen as such because they’re not traditional hobby activities. Right. I think when you drive your car, the driving as much more of a hobby to you than it is a utility activity to go from point A to point B along.


Hiten Shah.: I think that’s true.


Steli Efti: Which it totally is for me. Like I could not care less. I have zero enjoyment when I’m in a car driving somewhere, but to you, it’s a meditative practice. It’s a thinking practice. There’s enjoyment in that. Even I think to some degree, the way you consume and spread information, right? The way you interact on social media and the amount of information you consume or the amount of information you share, part of it is probably at this point just habit, right? It’s the momentum of habit of having built up all this throughout your entire life. Part of it I think is kind of a stimulation hobby. It’s not really work but it’s related to it in a way that’s interesting, that’s stimulating to you and in a way that’s useful to others. So sometimes when I see you on social media, I see a real playfulness to it and to me that’s again very different from me. When I see you on social media sometimes I feel like it’s much more of a hobby versus when I do it. The little bit that I do, it wouldn’t fit into the same category and there’s many little things like that. Even when you meet with founders, depending on what kind of meeting you have and what kind of advice you give, sometimes to me that seems like Hiten’s version of play. Right? Those are all hobbies that are related to your core life and the work that you do, but they’re not your work, right? But they help you with your work and they bring a little bit of variety to your day and stimulation and fun. At least that’s what it oftentimes it looks like to me.


Hiten Shah.: Yeah, that’s fair. That’s fair. Totally fair. Small hobbies.


Steli Efti: There you go. For me, people that have been listening to us for a long time know this. I have discovered a big hobby in my life and this is been for the last, I don’t know, five, six years and that’s been martial arts. Now I’m training Muay Thai kickboxing, I’m training Brazilian jujitsu, and to me it’s been really amazing and really helpful to find a physical activity that completely exhausts me, that pushes me to my limits, that helps me completely disconnect mentally from everything that’s going on in my life.


Hiten Shah.: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Steli Efti: And at the same time, it’s something that… One really interesting aspect of it is that just like with everything else in my life, I have brought myself to this. So I can’t help but be very ambitious about the things that I do and I’ve become a scholar of martial arts, I’ve consumed incredible amount of information about it and I know at this point a ton about it. And this is the one of the few areas of my life that I’m really incredibly passionate about where I have no chance of becoming as good as I’d like to be, right? So it’s a weird little beautiful function where I go to something where I give my all to it and I study it and I try to improve and I work hard at it. But at the same time I know I’m never going to be world-class, which is something I just intrinsically try to be at everything I do. And it’s a bittersweet mind-fuck that’s somehow good for me. It’s doing something passionately without… In a much more pure form because I know I cannot accomplish ultimately my goals in this, but I love the pursuit itself, right? And in everything else in my life that would be maybe very dissatisfying, especially in my work. But it’s interesting that this dimension opened up in my life where I have something that I am so passionate about that I spent a good amount of my free time with, studying, practicing and that I know I’m just never going to be as good as I’d like to be, but I still want to pursue it. There’s something spiritually fulfilling about that pursuit that’s different from anything else that I’ve ever done and it’s been helping me think better, work better. It’s helping me balance my emotional household a lot more. For me, it’s definitely been a massive blessing for my work as well, not just for my personal life. So if you can find something like that, I think it can be always really beautiful, but it depends on every person. And there’s a reason why I discovered this this late in life, and I have not been doing this since I’m 17, there’s probably a very good reason for that.


Hiten Shah.: That’s awesome.


Steli Efti: All right, well, I’m curious, we always love to hear from you, but on this episode especially, if you listened to this and you have had any insightful stories, experiences to share with either through yourself and the hobbies that you discovered being a founder or through other people, your co-founders, whoever else, if you have anything that you feel like sharing with us about hobbies and founders, send us an email,, We always love to hear from you. This is it for us for this time until next.


Hiten Shah.: See ya.