In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about the art of confidence. Steli shares an event he observed in a coworking space, one day, that really frustrated him. It showed the importance of having confidence in one’s self.  Listen as Steli and Hiten share their thoughts about what it means and takes to be confident and how their own personal level of confidence has affected their life and business. Steli and Hiten also discuss the importance of knowing and accepting yourself as a means for boosting your confidence.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:05 – Today’s episode is about the art of confidence
  • 01:05 – Give a rating, review in iTunes, and subscribe to the email list
  • 01:38 – Steli shares what he has observed that led to today’s podcast
    • 01:44 – Steli is still limited with his leg injury
    • 01:55 – Steli was working at a coworking space in Palo Alto
    • 02:17 – A group started a Skype call and the audio was insanely loud
    • 03:00 – The group is a start-up and they were talking to an ex-investment banker, advising the group about how to raise money
    • 03:32 – The guy was obnoxiously arrogant and wrong, and had an unreasonably high demand for his payment
    • 04:05 – Steli was conflicted by whether he should’ve talked to the group or not
  • 04:37 – Steli is most bothered by people taking advantage of founders
  • 05:01 – The guy on the phone was great at communicating his importance while the group lacked confidence
  • 05:47 – Founders can lack confidence and Steli wants to teach founders this skill, so they won’t be taken advantage of
  • 06:26 – People confuse confidence with charisma
    • 06:36 – Hiten explains the “push and pull” factors
    • 06:57 – When you are pulling people to you, in a lot of ways, you are also pushing something out
  • 07:18 – How confident are you in yourself?
  • 07:59 – You cannot be confident and pull people in unless you are really good with yourself and believe in yourself
  • 08:30 – People can be charismatic, but not confident
    • 08:57 – In Greek, charisma means “having a gift”
  • 09:19 – For Steli, confidence comes from self-belief
  • 09:37 – Being dominant does not mean confidence
  • 10:19 – True confidence comes from having both success and failure
  • 11:12 – Those who experience both success and failure have deeply rooted, calm confidence
  • 11:50 – Steli thinks Hiten is an extremely confident person
  • 12:33 – Hiten shares how he has struggled with his confidence level
  • 12:46 – “You have to work with yourself everyday”
  • 12:58 – Hiten wanted to eat something, but the restaurant did not have it
    • 13:24 – Hiten sat with it for 10 minutes and accepted it
    • 13:58 – Managing your emotions everyday helps make you have confidence in yourself
  • 14:45 – “Watch your emotions, watch your reactions”
  • 15:37 – Those who have failures have pushed themselves out of their comfort zones
  • 16:14 – Steli shares how to develop confidence: you have to have self-awareness and self-acceptance
  • 17:42 – Having self-awareness and self-acceptance can help you grow and find your value
  • 17:59 – Tweet your thoughts with Steli and Hiten

3 Key Points:

  1. Confidence comes from having both success and failures.
  2. Self-confidence can be acquired by working with yourself everyday.
  3. Self-awareness and self-acceptance are key factors in having confidence and finding your value.


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



Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.



Steli Efti: In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, I wanted to talk to you about the art of confidence, or how to develop confidence. We’re just talking about this concept of what is even confidence, right? Something happened between me pinging you about this yesterday and today that I think relates to this but might derail us. This is going to be a fun episode, so I’ll just go with this. Before we jump into the confidence piece, here’s something that I observed yesterday, and it keeps me busy. I’m still thinking about it, so I feel like you’re the perfect person to talk about this. These podcasts, as much as they are for you guys and as much as it seems like you guys really enjoy it … If you do, by the way, please go and give us a five-star rating and a review on iTunes. It really helps, and make sure to go to the and subscribe to our email list. We’re going to start doing a lot more emails and exclusive stuff to people that are on the email list. As much as we do it for you guys, it’s also partially a little bit of a therapy session for me, utilizing Hiten’s wisdom and the relationship we have to kind of just unpack things when I don’t quite know how I feel about them myself. The thing that happened yesterday was that … We’ve given up the office we had in Palo Alto. We’re now fully remote. I’m still very limited with my leg injury. I have the ACL surgery and all that, so I’m still kind of on crutches. I’m working out of this co-working space in Palo Alto, and there are these, quote, unquote, “private rooms.” It’s basically just like a way to have a meeting off the entire large office space, but it’s not really a closed room. There’s no door or anything. It’s just a little … I don’t even know. Like a little thing that you can do to visually separate, but people can still hear you. There were these guys … Startup shows up, and they set up their meeting thing there. It’s right behind me. I’m working, and they start a Skype call. The audio on that Skype call is just insanely loud, right? They have this little monitor thing, and the audio on this monitor thing is really loud. So, pretty much everybody in the entire fucking co-working space can hear the person that’s on the Skype call calling in talking to them. The three people … Those three guys are pretty quiet, but I’m sitting next to them. So, I hear them, but the guy, Jesus Christ … So loud, like just everybody hears every single word he says. I’m not even interested in this conversation, but I can’t but hear that this is a startup. They say they’ve come from abroad. They’d raised money from abroad. They seemed like really technical people, the three people, with engineering degrees. They work on a fairly technical product, not even just a website-owned app … Something much more technologically involved. This guy on the Skype call is this ex-investment banker that’s advising startups on how to raise money, and he is so obnoxiously arrogant and so obnoxiously wrong in many cases, and he … So expensive in terms of what he was asking them to pay him for his services. The entire time I was putting on my headphones and was like, “This is not my business. I don’t wanna hear the details of this.” I’m listening to music, and I have to go to the bathroom. Just the walk to the bathroom and back, the stuff that I was hearing was just driving me crazy. I was in this inner conflict. Should I step in and A) tell them that everybody can hear this? Do they really want to share all these details with everybody? Should I step in there and tell them that they might want to reconsider giving this guy that much equity and pay him that much money for this advice? Hey, I don’t know. I was very conflicted about how much I should get involved in this or not, and I’ll leave the details of what happened afterwards out of it. The thing, I think, why this A) … It just bothers me because it’s this, and we’ve talked about this before, it’s this people taking advantage of founders. I mean, people taking advantage of people in general bothers me, but what I see a lot is experts and advisors and potential investors going and taking advantage of founders of startups and destroying value rather than creating it. That drives me crazy. The other thing why this also relates in this confidence piece in some weird way is that he was just so good at communicating that he’s so important. He was so confident and he was such an alpha-type person, and these guys were so not, right? They were lacking so … They seem like very sweet guys, and I can’t tell if they’re really smart and how well they do and how good their technology is and all that, but they seemed the opposite of it. All the confidence they lacked, he had; hence, why he had the power over them, and hence why he was so attractive to them, I guess, to the point where they were willing to pay him in ways that seemed crazy to me. I don’t know. I don’t even know where I’m going with this, but I just wanted to share it with you to hear your thoughts and then unpack this dynamic between these … Founders sometimes that are really great at what they do, but they just lack the confidence, what can we do to make them believe more in themselves, to not submit to others just because they’re dominant? I don’t know. Just talk a little bit about how we think about confidence. How did you develop it? How did I develop it? How do we teach or help others who are seeing other people become more confident in what they do so that they can do better work, they can attract more people, they can convince more people, and even more important in this context, they’re not being taken advantage of because they see others that do have confidence and they feel like they need to listen to them or do whatever they say?



Hiten Shah: Yeah. In some ways, it’s almost feels like people confuse confidence and charisma.



Steli Efti: That’s interesting.



Hiten Shah: A lot of what you’re saying is like … Charisma is like pull, right? People also think confidence is like push. Confidence isn’t exactly like … When I think about the two words, you think about push and pull, right?



Steli Efti: Yeah.



Hiten Shah: Push is like I’m putting myself out there, and you’re just going to listen to me. Charisma, or not charisma, but pull is like I’m going to pull you into what I’m doing. Those things are actually separate ways to exude confidence. I think when you’re pulling people to you, a lot of people think it’s about, “Oh, you’re confident. You’re strong.” Right? You’re just pulling people into you. Actually, in a lot of ways, you’re pushing something out and it’s bringing people to you. There’s like this push and pull that happens with confidence, in my mind. A lot of it, and I know I’m going to get a little foo-foo here, but a lot of it has to do with how confident are you in yourself? This is not about other people. It’s actually not really about push and pull at the core, although there’s all these words and these things out there, like charisma, confidence, ego, strength … All these things that we use to describe somebody who we feel attracted to or we feel like is really able to get people to join them for a cause or something they care about, right? A lot of them are religious people, cult leaders, CEOs, founders, managers, presidents, right? They exude this confidence. You cannot be confident and pull people in unless you are really good with yourself. Really good. Otherwise, you’re just basically like the snake oil salesman.



Steli Efti: Yeah. Yeah.



Hiten Shah: Because what you’re doing is you don’t really believe in what you’re selling. This belief in yourself is really, I think, at the core of what you’re probably feeling from these people that you were giving an example of. That’s my take on it.



Steli Efti: Yeah. This is interesting because in my mind, you can be … Charisma and confidence are very different things in my mind, where charisma … You can be incredibly charismatic but actually not confident. A lot of artists, a lot of … Yeah, a lot of people in the arts, music, acting, can be incredibly charismatic humans but not that confident, still being torn apart with self-doubt internally and insecurities and things like that. Charisma, the word itself, actually, from the Greek, just to drop some knowledge here …



Hiten Shah: Yeah.



Steli Efti: … means having a gift. Charisma is like being gifted something. It’s like somebody that has something that you cannot explain. It’s a gift. When they interact, they have something that makes them attractive that makes them magnetic but that cannot be explained and that was not earned or worked on. Right? It’s just something they were born with. Confidence, to me, comes from self-belief, right? To me, true confident comes from the knowledge and the belief that you know what you’re doing, and you know how to overcome challenges or how to make things happen. To me, the negative push … The word I would use for that is dominant. Somebody could be very dominant and very alpha aggressive but not necessarily being confident or having any charisma. There’s people that are very, very dominant in their interactions with other humans, and they bully people into submission, but it’s not … Yeah. You would confuse that with confidence, but it doesn’t really mean that they are truly confident. Not to get too hung up on words, but I know that both you and I have an interest in words, right, so I always love to geek out on it with you. Coming back to the topic of confidence, I feel like there’s two parts to it. One is, to me, true confidence comes from this place of both having experienced success and failure. When you only have experienced success, when everything you’ve done has always just worked, you might be very confident; but, to me, it seems like a shaky confidence. It’s a confidence that is not as deeply rooted, and if something bad happens or if you fail, that person is going to crash because they’ve never experienced that before. It might crush their whole worldview about themselves. If you only experience failure, obviously, your entire life, you’re not going to be confident, right? No matter how we want to slice and dice failure as a positive thing, if everything you’ve done hasn’t worked, you’re going to most likely suffer by not being as confident. I mean, there’s exceptions, but that’s going to be the rule. I find that when most of the things you’ve done have worked but you also have encountered some really big, devastating failures and overcome them … I feel like those type of people are the people that are the most deeply rooted … They have this deeply rooted, calm confidence. There’s no need for them to make other people think about them a certain way. There’s no need to be loud or dominant. They just believe in themselves, and they believe that they know what they’re doing. They have this deep rooted belief in their capabilities that makes them very attractive but also makes them very effective in many ways. How do you think about that? When I think about you, you’re an incredibly confident person, but that is not the result of pure success throughout your entire life and no adversity, right? You had to overcome a lot of things in your personal life. You had to overcome some really devastating challenges in business, but you also had a lot of success. You mixed those things together, and I find that that is what makes you confident in a way that’s so attractive and that’s very deep. It’s not shallow. It’s very, very deep. The quality of it is deep. I can tell there’s a quiet, calm confidence in everything and anything you do, and that’s kind of my mental model of how I explain how you got here.



Hiten Shah: Yeah. Everyone struggles with this that I’ve ever met. I struggle with it all the time in terms of my confidence level if you want to call it that. People are different, right? Yeah. It’s like one of those things where my only answer to you on this, right, is you have to work on yourself every day. What working on yourself means is managing your emotions when things happen. Managing is the word. Letting them go. Just dumb stuff. Like, I went to a restaurant yesterday. They didn’t have the thing I wanted, so I walked out. They knew that I wanted that thing because they knew I come for that thing, and they didn’t have it. I literally had to take five to 10 minutes to get good with it afterwards. Now, here’s the thing. Normally, I would’ve started looking at my email and started getting really pissed off at every email I got, just ‘cuz. I was pissed, right? That day, yesterday, I sat with it for 10 minutes, like, “Damn. They didn’t have it. I really wanted it.” There’s a much more complicated situation or complex situation related to this, but that’s the basics of it. Honestly, I will never feel like that again, ever, because of something as minutia as that. But if I didn’t sit with it for 10 minutes and I didn’t actually get good with it, I don’t think I would have got to that place. I would have kept having this repetitive pattern. I know you’re probably looking at me or thinking about it, Steli, and you’re like, “What the fuck does that have to do with confidence?” Right? Well …



Steli Efti: I was just asking myself this . Where is he going with this?



Hiten Shah: I know. I know. This is good. Don’t worry. I promise. If you can’t do those little things every day and just get better at managing your emotion and feelings, you’re not ever going to be confident, ever. Because then, like, you’re sitting in front of a crowd or you’re letting things set you off in a way that makes you weaker, makes you unable to deal with the world. That was a world problem. It wasn’t a me problem. It wasn’t a that restaurant and those people suck, that kind of problem, although all those things come in your head when you’re really invested in something and you’re attached to it. For me, it was those little things and doing lots of those little things, they help me have more confidence in myself. It’s okay. They didn’t have the thing I wanted. It’s cool. I’m moving on. I’ll go find something better, right? Not everyone has the issue like I would on something small like that, but I did, and I had to get through it. So, I’m giving the example of just watch your emotion. Watch your reaction. If you can do that, then you’ll be better with yourself. You’ll be more confident in yourself. Honestly, the fact that I got pissed there, for me and my personality, that’s a lack of confidence. That’s why I had to work through it instead of just move on with my day and be pissed.



Steli Efti: Love it. All right. We’ve talked about this before, I think that … There’s two models that I use to explain confidence and how to get it and how to get more of it to people. One is what I just talked about with the … You have to experience both success and failure. If you optimize your whole life just to succeed in everything you do, you won’t have the same quality of confidence that people that have overcome challenges or even experienced failure. But obviously, if you fail at everything you do, it’s going to be really hard to believe in yourself because there’s not going to be a lot of evidence. You kind of need both things. That, to me, points to a person that is pushing themselves outside their comfort zone enough, and enough times to fail, but to grow in the process enough to succeed as well. The other model that I have … I think I’ll wrap this up because this is one of those episodes we could talk about for 10 hours and still not arrive anywhere. Just for people that are wondering, for a lot of our listeners, we know that a lot of you guys really love the tactical stuff that we do. You’ll see a lot more tactical episodes in the pipeline, but this one is more of a fun one. The other model that I have is that I believe that to truly develop confidence, you have to have self-awareness and self-acceptance. Right? We’ve talked about self-awareness a lot and the value of self-awareness, not just for you personally but also even for startups. I know that you look at a lot of teams, and you judge startup teams based on how self-aware are they? Because if they are self-aware, they’re going to be able to improve. They’re going to be able to adjust.



Hiten Shah: Yep.



Steli Efti: That will make them succeed. We’ve talked about this in Episode 65 on how to become more self-aware and in Episode 45 on founder self-awareness, so this is an important topic to us. If you know who you are and where you are in life and what your capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, and challenges are … If you’re truly self-aware and dialed in and you have a healthy degree of self-acceptance, you want to improve, you want to change, you want to challenge yourself, but you’re also okay with who you are and who other people are … You’re okay with yourself. You’re not so insecure that you’re trying to be this different person. You’re not pretending to be somebody else. You can be authentic in yourself because you’re okay because you know who you are, and you’re kind of okay with it. You know who you can be, and you believe you can get there. If you have that mix of self-awareness and self-acceptance, I find that also to be incredibly powerful to the development of a human being. I find that as I’ve worked on these two things in my life, it helped me grow and it helped me create more value in the world. It helped me progress and propel myself forward, so I wanted to share that with people as well. I’m curious to hear people’s thoughts on this. In general, all your thoughts when you listen to me and Hiten talk about this stuff, always hit us up on @hnshah on Twitter or at @steli. We always love to hear your thoughts on this stuff as well.



Hiten Shah: Yeah. Thanks for listening to our meandering on confidence.



Steli Efti: All right. We’ll hear you guys very soon.



Hiten Shah: Bye.