In this episode, Steli and Hiten discuss the content of our personal network. People around us in our network have an effect on us—they can drain us or give us energy. There are times where we find ourselves surrounded by a negative network and Steli and Hiten believe that the solution, oftentimes, begins with us. Listen to find out how the mindset we choose can make all the difference in the world when it comes to how we relate to our network—positive or negative.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:30 – Steli introduces today’s topic: the content of personal network
  • 01:01 – Steli discusses how he feels when he has different types of interactions from his social network
  • 01:54 – Humans naturally associate conversation as an energy-giving activity
  • 02:59 – With every conversation, always consider if it is beneficial to you
  • 04:00 – Steli and Hiten are also giving their listeners energy through podcasting
  • 04:40 – Steli has always been drawn to being attached to people who contribute to the world
  • 05:20 – One of Steli’s closest friends isn’t necessarily ambitious and Steli still loves hanging out with him
  • 06:30 – Steli shares about a new entrepreneur he met in an event who was just having a good time
  • 07:55 – The entrepreneur gained everyone’s friendship because he was warm and genuine and wasn’t trying to sell himself
  • 08:49 – The entrepreneur was content with his small business
  • 09:02 – A year later, people began to invest in him simply because people wanted to spend time with him—he gave them energy
  • 10:14 – Steli asks Hiten what would someone do if he/she already has a negative network
  • 11:37 – Hiten suggests to think about the positive traits of the negative network
  • 11:41 – Change your mindset about your family; the way you interact and treat them
  • 12:22 – Do an attitude shift
  • 13:40 – If you change your attitude, the people around you might change, too
  • 15:19 – Steli’s experience with his network, growing up
  • 16:39 – Follow your heart and gut in discerning who you spend time with as opposed to your head
  • 17:30 – A successful salesperson is a passionate one
  • 18:07 – When someone drains you, spend less time with them
  • 18:55 – Steli had a change in his perspective
  • 19:45 – People oftentimes think that we can’t control what we actually do
  • 20:35 – It is your choice if you want the negative upbringing to get to you
  • 22:00 –When you’re direct with people, ask yourself if you’re giving them the energy or not
  • 22:28 – Steli’s mentor mindset explained
  • 23:42 – That’s it for today’s episode!

3 Key Points:

  1. Follow your gut, not your head, when deciding who should be a part of your personal network.
  2. You can’t control or change your family to feel better about them, but you can change your mindset and that makes the biggest difference.
  3. Ask yourself: am I giving this person energy or am I draining and bringing them down?

Steli Efti: Hey, everybody. This is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.


Steli Efti: And in today’s episode of The Startup Chat, we want to talk about the concept of personal networks, or the idea that your network is your net worth, or show me your five best friends, I’ll tell you who you are. We never really talk about how to select your friends and how to build your community or your network of people that you work with, that you’re friendly with and how to expand on that and how to think about that. So, I thought that that would be kind of a fun topic to chat about.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, I love it. I didn’t know what the topic was going to be today because we’re just jumping right in and that’s what I wanted, and Steli’s always ready for that. So, I’m going to start with something.


Steli Efti: Cool.


Hiten Shah: I think the one thing that really changed my life in terms of people I hang out with and if you want to call a network – which, I have major problems with the word like many people do, but we won’t talk about that yet – is the fact that in every interaction now, now I’m doing it subconsciously. But for a while, I had to do it consciously. I’m just thinking about it. And I know, Steli, we’ve talked about this here and there. But, I’m thinking about whether I get energy from the conversation. Like, am I motivated? Am I excited? Am I happy? Am I delighted to an extreme, would be an example. Or, is it something that’s draining me? Draining me meaning some people talk at are they a giver or a taker. I don’t really look at it like that. I think everyone’s a taker, but that’s a whole other topic. But, to me, it’s like straight up, how does that interaction make me feel? When I interact with that person, when I see that person, what are the different feelings that I feel in recognizing what those are, because obviously, as humans, we want to associate, hang out, talk, whatever, with people who give us energy – make us feel great. And it doesn’t mean they’re giving you compliments all the time. That actually does not make me feel great. But, just the aura, their feeling, and the emotion you get just by being in the room with them or having that interaction.


For example, even being on a call with you like this, like a Skype call or a recording, I get energy out of it. I know you do, too. That’s a great relationship. Those are people you want to hang out with more. I know every time we see each other in person, it’s like, “Oh, it’s awesome to see you in person, too!” Right? And there hasn’t been a time where I haven’t felt like that. That doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have struggle or debates. I think we kind of debated something this morning actually, in a way. But, it’s just something that’s fulfilling for you. Something where you want more of it and you almost can’t get enough. Those are the best relationships in my mind.


Steli Efti: I love it. I love the framework of, “Is this person giving me energy, or is this person costing me energy?” That seems like a more pure form of asking the question than saying, “Can I benefit from this relationships?” because sometimes in the mind, sometimes you might think, “Well, this person is rich,” or, “This person is successful,” whatever that means, or famous. So, I will benefit from this relationship although I hate talking to this person, or I feel horrible every time I talk to this person. Or, it robs me of all my energy and all my passion and power. I think asking, “Is the interaction with this person giving me energy or costing me energy,” is such a pure, more intuitive, but also, more honest form of asking the question. I love that. And yeah, you’re absolutely right. One of the reasons why we are probably doing this is that we get energy from each other. We are more excited after we’ve talked to each other most of the time, I would say, than before.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, and nine times out of ten, I walk away from these like, “All right. I feel better.” Not that I felt bad before the call, I just feel better. It’s great.


Steli Efti: And think about if we try to accomplish during this podcast together, and every time we talk, nine out of ten times, we’ve felt a little more exhausted after talking to each other, it would have never survived until this point. This is also shining through when people come to me and they talk about the podcast. I truly believe that people can sense that, and it gives them energy when they listen to us because they can feel that we’re passionate and excited, having a good time here, and we are like one and one equals three in terms of our energy level versus one and a half. So, I love that. I think my framework here, obviously, has always been like I’m trying to surround myself with people that are better than I am. And most of the times, very intuitively, it will be in aspects of life that I want to grow in. But, I’ve also, I think, when I was younger, I was very much focused on success and very much focused on certain traits. But very quickly, I’ve always been drawn and attracted to becoming friends with people that are on a path for growth, personal growth, on a path for contributing more and more to the world, and people that are very authentic, very self-aware and very honest with who they are and very comfortable with where they are in the world.


These are the people that have become my friends over the years and kind of my circle. And today, that doesn’t always mean people that are very successful entrepreneurs. I have some people that I have around me, and they have nothing to do with business entrepreneurship. Like, one of my best friends back in Europe is the least ambitious person I know, but he is so comfortable in his own skin and he’s so joyful and he has his own special kind of humor. And he’s that type of person where every time I spend time with him, it’s an adventure, it’s fun, it’s great, and I don’t have to be anybody else and he doesn’t have to be anybody else. So, it’s like a really kind of powerful and joyful experience. But, one quote that I heard recently about this that made me think we should talk about this, because I never thought about it that way, was some coach, famous football coach or something – I can’t remember the name, said that you can’t outpunch your network or something. The people that area around you, they don’t only represent all you can accomplish, they also represent the limitations – that you won’t be able to do a lot more than the people that you’ve surrounded yourself with.


But, I actually don’t like thinking about it that way. I like the way you thought about it a lot more. And here’s a quick story, and then I’ll ask you a question before I keep babbling on. I know we talked about this in the episode “Dehumanizing Your Heroes.” The one example, a powerful example that I have of this – I think I shared this story in that episode; I’m not 100 percent sure, was a guy that was an entrepreneur doing a small side business, like, just a SEO ecommerce store in a super tiny niche. And he became friends with some more successful entrepreneurs, and they were going to these conferences and he was just riding along with him. And I met him at this one event where he became friends with some really successful entrepreneurs and during the entire event, he was never trying to become friends with people. He was never trying to sell what he was doing. He was asking constantly questions like, “How do you do this? How do you do that? I want to raise money. I want to do these other things. I’m more ambitious. I want to do bigger things.” He was so comfortable with who he was and he was just having a good time, and he was cracking jokes, and he was doing funny things and he was just really a relaxed dude that you wanted to hang out with. And then, he turned to the life of the party and we went out at night. And a lot of people, that circle of successful entrepreneurs, they all became friends with him because he was the only person at that conference, at that event, that didn’t try to sell anybody anything, and wasn’t constantly trying to get information, and get knowledge and get references and intros and –


Hiten Shah: Almost like anti-hustle.


Steli Efti: He was absolutely anti-hustling but in the most charming, cool way possible because he was just making sure everybody has an awesome time. And you could sense that he wasn’t doing it with an agenda, he was not eagerly doing it, it was just natural to him. So, it was like having a great time dancing, having cool conversations talking about fun, life… He was just bringing about all these topics that nobody else wanted to talk about because this was a business conference. And two days later in the morning before I went to the airport, we had some sandwiches at a little shop and we were talking. And he was telling me how weird it was to see all these people coming to us and wanting things from us, selling us on ideas, trying to get an intro, trying to get on the podcast, try to get help, try to get somebody of us to invest in them. He was like, “You know what I realized? I have nothing to sell. And I was wondering, maybe that’s why you guys like hanging out with me because I really don’t want anything from you. I’m content with my small little business and I’m doing great. I don’t need anything from you guys.


And one year later today, one of these five super successful business guys became his co-founder in a new venture that just closed a $10 million round and they’re crushing it. Two other guys of these super successful founders became investors in the startup. And me and one other guy became very close friends with him and we were sailing with him a few months ago, we were in other conferences with him and traveling with him. And I was looking back and I was like, what a powerful thing. This guy just showed up at this conference and became friends with people with no agenda, and a year later, he has leveled up at such a great point because all these people want to hang out with him. They want to spend time with him because he gave all of us more energy. He was one of the few people at that conference that was doing that. So, that’s a powerful example. I couldn’t think of anti-hustle, and building a powerful network of super successful people without networking with them. Without trying to be something with them. So, how do people do this? Let’s talk about the persons listening to this and that’s saying, “Yeah, that’s all fun and games for you guys and your network’s all full of people that are amazing and give you energy, but I am surrounded by people that rob energy of me. And my family sucks…” I mean, I’m going to oversimplify this. But, “My family sucks, my friends are super negative, my job and my colleagues suck and I want a better life. But when I look at my network, when I look at my friends and family and colleagues and people that are surrounding myself, all of them are super negative. They pull me down. How do I create a new environment of friends? How do I make new friends? How do I break out of that?” What would be the number one advice that you would give to somebody like that?


Hiten Shah: Yeah. I mean, I’ve actually had this happen a lot. It isn’t like people come to me and talk to me and they, like, deliberately ask this question, but you can oftentimes tell just my some of the language they use. A lot of the things you suggested when you were talking about how… They don’t say, “I’m unhappy,” but they basically say that, “The people around me suck.” And the obvious answer is, change the people around you. Then they’re like, “Well, I can’t change my family.” Well, I’m like, “You’re right. You can’t change your family, but you can still change the way you interact with them, for one. And you could also change your attitude about it.” And I think the most powerful thing, and a lot of the self-help books and things like The Secret and all that stuff, they talk about manifestation and what you believe you are and stuff like that, which I actually believe in. I mean, I think why would you want to believe that the people around you suck?

So, the first thing I’d say is, “Can you start telling me some positive things about these people?” Because the key is to get yourself in a mindset where you could be energized by your family if you talked to them about different things. You could be energized about your family if you had a different attitude, and just remember that they’re family and they are what they are, and that doesn’t have anything to do with you if you don’t want it to. And so, I wouldn’t actually suggest things may other people might, which is like, “Oh, go find new people,” or whatever. I’d first suggest that you change your attitude. It’s just like that story you said and that anti-hustle gentleman. He was actually hustling. He was hustling harder than anybody else, but it’s called anti-hustle. It’s like, “Dude, I don’t need to go hustle. You don’t need to see me hustling.” That’s basically what it boils down to. And so, for me, it’s an attitude shift. I first focus on the attitude shift and figure out why people think those things. Once you figure out the root cause of why you think that, then you’re going to usually learn that it has something to do with you.


For example, growing up, your parents told you you weren’t good enough. So, how are you ever going to think anyone around you is good enough for you? So, it’s things like that that you have to get to the bottom of, because for all of us, it’s very individualistic. It has a lot to do with what we got surrounded with whether we liked it or not, and how those things impacted us in ways that we might not realize. So, I know this is probably not the answer you’re looking – that anyone who’s listening is looking for – but it’s all within yourself and your ability and your own thinking of how you actually approach it and how you think about it. I never really walk around thinking that the people around me suck. I don’t walk around thinking that I need anything from them either. And I definitely don’t walk around thinking the people I know are my network. And sometimes, it’s to my detriment for sure because I probably could reach out to dozens of people when I’m facing a certain problem or in a certain situation, but I don’t. And that’s just me.


But, that’s because of the way I grew up, and what I realized about that is that it’s actually a really powerful attitude of not being needy, not being grabby and instead, focusing in on yourself and your own attitude about it. And if you change your attitude, the people around you will change. That could be that those people themselves changed because you changed the attitude you have about them. You start talking to them about more positive things, or you start, basically, bumping into people who do give you energy. And it’s just about recognizing a lot of this stuff and knowing that whatever stories you’re telling yourself about this, they’re your stories; they’re not anyone else’s. And they’re probably not true because everyone’s reality is different.


Steli Efti: I love it. I also want to share with people out there, maybe with that kind of – I made that example up of the person that’s like, “Well, my network or the people around me are really, really, really negative and how do I break out of that?” Honestly, me growing up, my network was not that great. So, my family was always – my close family, my mom and my brothers – incredibly loving, but not great in the sense of successful or encouraging to be an entrepreneur or anything like that. But, my greater family, not that great, and my neighborhood, the kids that went to school with me, my teachers, the people in my life growing up were not A+ quality, giving me energy, encouraging or successful in any way. And I remember reading a book when I was 16 or 17 and one of the pieces of advice in the book was exactly this: to change your friends and family and people in your life to be more successful. And I remember back then, I was baffled by the idea. I was like, “What the fuck is this? Changing my friends? How do you – finding successful friends? How does one do that?” That seemed so weird to me. It was like, “Start breathing underwater.” I was like, “How does somebody do this? This is weird.” But ten years later today, a lot of times when people ask me, “Hey, how are people? Oh, you traveled to this country or that country,” or, “You went to this conference or that conference. How are people in this country?” Or, “How is that culture?” I always tell them I have no idea because anywhere I go, I walk around a bubble where everybody I need is amazing and incredibly friendly and helpful, and is working on cool shit, and wants to do good work and cares about growth.


But I recognize and realize that those are not the people of, whatever, put in the country. I don’t have the representation of the average person in that country I meet. My little bubble of people I interact with today is almost exclusively positive. And almost everybody I interact with is a person that’s working with cool things and wants to make the world a better place in some way or not. Not to say that everybody I interact with gives me energy, which is why I bode coming back to that as the measuring stick for who you should spend more time with or less time with. And I truly believe that after having this conversation with you that if people stop going with the mind and calculating, “Can this person do me a favor that might benefit me?” or, “Is this person successful?” or, “Does this person have money or fame?” If they stop going with a mind and they go with whatever you want to call it, the heart, or the body or the soul of, “Am I more energized spending time with this person?” If that’s your feedback loop or your compass on who you’re going to spend more time with, you’re going to be fine. Eventually, you’re going to have an amazing group of people around you, and you know everybody who’s listening knows this. This is also, by the way, a rule in selling.


I teach people, when you sell, you better be passionate. You better be excited. Because if you’re not fucking excited about what you’re selling, why should I listen to you at all? Why should I give a fuck at all? And one of the rules why people liked to buy from me and why I was a successful sales person is that people felt energized. People felt more passionate, more motivated, more inspired when they spent time with me. So, naturally, they wanted to spend more time with me. And when you talk to somebody, this morning I was talking to a candidate where after five minutes, I wanted to kill myself. This person seemed very, very capable, very skilled, very experienced. So, skill wise, this person was amazing. But having a conversation with that person was draining my energy. And one thing is clear on an intuitive level. When somebody drains you, you just want to spend as little time as possible having that person around you. So, yeah. I love coming back to that. But, I think my point here is, if you today are surrounded by people that don’t give you a lot of energy, it doesn’t mean that five, ten years from now… You’re not stuck in that. You don’t have to be around these people. And even if it’s family, maybe you spend less time with them or you spend your time differently with them, with different expectations. But your friends? Your coworkers? The people you spend most time with? Those are people you can select, and if you focus on being somebody that gives other people energy, and being somebody that is great to people, great people and energizing people will find you and spend more and more time with you. And five, ten years from now, your world and the people you interact with might be totally different.


Hiten Shah: Yeah.  I mean, I think you’re a testament to that, right? You deliberately wanted a change, but you didn’t go sit there and get all networky about it from what I know about you at least. And instead, you just decided to sort of have a shift in perspective, I think, first, even with all the stories you talk about about going to the book store and learning about stocks and getting super excited about it, not necessarily having deaf ears at home, but essentially them being like, “Okay, cool. Steli’s crazy,” you know? If I recall correctly. And yet, still pushing through that. So, I think it’s like you have to consciously decide you want to make a change, but recognize that if you think things are shitty, whether it’s the people around you or the things you’re doing even. Then you have to consciously make the shift in your head that it’s not shitty, it’s just part of your process, and that you can control it. I think oftentimes, we believe that we can’t control a lot of things we actually do, and we can control the things that we don’t. For example, when a lot of people talk about their family and all that, I can’t personally empathize in the way that most people would think of the empathy there because I had a great upbringing from a supportive, loving family. We didn’t give a lot of hugs, but everything else was pretty supportive.


That being said, when I talk to people who don’t feel that way about their upbringing, I think they forget the context of those people. They forget the context of their parents; they forget that it is their attitude about it that impacts it more than anything else. I could talk about a lot of things and tell a different story even about myself and how shitty it was. I really could. But, I choose not to, and I think that choice is very deliberate. You choose not to either. Even the way you talk about your family, you’re like, “Look, they were this, they were that, but they weren’t this and that, and I’m okay with it.” So, it’s more about getting okay with that situation and then not focusing in on trying to change those people. So, that’s the point I wanted to make, right? It’s like, you don’t have to go change your family to feel better about them. They are who they are. Just like your friends. You don’t have to change them, you just have to accept them and then decide that you’re going to spend less time with them or more time with them, and use a simple framework instead of making it really emotional and complicated.


And I think the simple one for me is like when I interact with a person and for the amount of times that I interact with them, are most of them positive? Are most of them leaving me feeling really great or are they leaving me feeling sad, drained or not hopeful for myself? And I think it’s a huge thing because there’s no reason to walk around your life and be alive and not feel fulfilled, not feel energetic about whatever you’re doing. Because, as many people would say, the clock is ticking and you only have so long to live.


Steli Efti: I love that. So, wrapping up with that, I think the one really powerful question that came out of this is, “Is this person giving me energy or costing me energy?” But on the reverse, ask yourself when you interact with people, “Did I just give this person energy, or did I just cost them energy?” That’s an interesting question to ask as well, which is, it doesn’t matter if it’s interacting with your family, your mom, your father, your brothers, your sisters, or if it’s with your friends or somebody that’s a coworker. When you interact with people, ask yourself, “Did I give this person energy or not?” I had a mentor, and I’ll wrap this up as a little tip. As a little experiment to play with this idea, I had a mentor that, I think, once a week, he had on Sundays, he had this goal for himself that every Sunday, every person he would interact with would feel better after the interaction with him than they felt before. That would be his little mind game. So, from a person in the elevator to the server in the breakfast place, every human, every person that was passing him by and having eye contact with him on the street, every person in any way he could, he would try to make feel a little bit better. Maybe it was a joke, maybe it was a sensitive, gentle gesture or generosity. You try to make everybody feel better for just one day in a week, and those days, just having that mind frame for a day is a pretty amazing and magical thing. And it makes you realize how great you feel when you give other people great energy. So, that’s my little tip as an experiment for people that want to play with this.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, I love that tip. I walk around most days feeling like that unless I’m really feeling shitty, which, just like everybody else, I feel shitty some days, too. Today is not one of those things. Yeah, I don’t have anything to add. I really like that tip. If you’re not doing that either every day or every morning or even once a week, you should start it. You’ll realize that you can actually be like that all the time.


Steli Efti: I love it. That’s it from us.


Hiten Shah: Bye.