229: DO THE WORK
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This episode is a wild card episode. Hiten and Steli freestyle the discussion to get to a few core truths that have guided their path to success. The idea for today’s episode was sparked by a comment made by Hiten about people NOT wanting to hear the real answers. This is EXACTLY what you will get from Steli and Hiten in today’s episode. Tune-in as Steli and Hiten share the hard truths of what it takes to be successful and the misgivings of looking for that shortcut.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
- 00:05 – Today is a wild episode—Hiten does not know what it will come of it and the last time Steli did something like this the podcast was born
- 01:11 – Steli and Hiten freestyle every podcast they do, meaning they spend just a few minutes planning the episode
- 01:21 – During one of their brainstorming sessions, Hiten brought up the fact that people don’t want to hear the real answers
- 01:43 – Steli does a lot of public speaking and travelling
- 02:28 – Other speakers would ask Steli how to give good talks
- 03:06 – Steli says speakers would look at one’s style more than the substance of the speech itself
- 03:26 – Steli says one who can deliver amazing content and give great speeches is one who has experienced and lived a lot of life
- 04:09 – You have to put in the work and be out in the world doing things
- 04:47 – Steli and Hiten do not have to make scripts because they have a lot of experience
- 05:19 – Steli says you have to put a lot into life to get a lot out of it
- 06:04 – Hiten agrees with Steli but, on the other hand, you do not need a lot of experience to share content that will be compelling to someone else
- 06:37 – You just need to think harder about your own experience and how to share it in a compelling and valuable way
- 07:04 – In this case, the work is knowing how to communicate and share your experience in a way that people can relate to
- 07:51 – Hiten says it takes effort to figure something out
- 08:23 – Aside from doing the work, you must also take a leap of faith that it is worth doing
- 08:33 – Hiten says it is just as hard now as it was when he first started, it is about doing the work and feeling the pain that comes with it
- 09:24 – Steli says everyone has a story to share, but you need to do the unglamourous work involved in sharing that story
- 09:53 – People are focused on the hack—getting results as fast as they can
- 10:29 – Steli says there is no short-cut worth taking
- 11:16 – People tend to know what they ought to do, but because it’s not easy or they don’t want to do it, they look for other ways
- 12:11 – Steli says it is insulting that there are people who think that they just have to outsmart the smart people; being smart is not enough, you have to outwork the smart people, too
- 13:04 – Nothing meaningful is going to get done unless you put in the effort
- 13:16 – DO THE WORK
3 Key Points:
- There are no shortcuts to success—you need to DO the work.
- To create something meaningful requires a significant amount of effort.
- Think about how you can share your experience in a compelling and meaningful way to your audience.
Hey, everybody, this is Steli Efti.
This is Hiten Shah, and today on the Startup Chat, Steli decided we’re going to do a wild episode. The last time he decided something like this we ended up with a whole podcast. The whole thing started that way.
That is kind of true.
I am dying. For the last 30 seconds I’ve been like, “All right, what’s this going to be about? All right, what’s this going to be about?” Steli, what’s up? Let’s go.
Here’s the deal, right? This is going to be like a ranty type of an episode. We just had an interaction, we just talked for, like … Just kind of a behind of the scenes for everybody that’s listening, out of the hour every week that we talk and we’re trying to record three 20 minute episodes, there’s maybe one minute that’s not recorded. We don’t spend a lot of time chit-chatting between or before episodes, or talking about what we’re going to talk about in much detail. We’re really free-styling. These are real conversations, first take, there’s no editing that’s happening afterwards or nothing. We just had a 20 second interaction about a topic that I was like, “Hiten, what about this? Should we talk about this in this way?” You said something that triggered this rant in me, which is like, “Yeah, people don’t want to hear the real answer to things.” Here’s my rant. Here’s something that I’ve been thinking about, and it’s two-sided. One, there’s a lot of people that come to me, especially now. I’m doing a lot of public speaking, right? We both do a lot of talks. I probably even moreso than you, because you say just no to a ton more.
You do. Yeah, you do.
You’re just a lot more selective. You’re not traveling. If it’s not in the Bay area, it’s very hard to get you to give a talk. I’m breaking hearts left and right. There’s not a week where I don’t tell somebody, “No, Hiten’s not going to give a talk at your conference. Can already tell you because he would have to fly, so I’m not going to even bother him about it.” People ask me all the time to invite you to speak to them.
I appreciate that, Steli. I’ll let you know when I’m open, I didn’t realize that. I don’t want to break hearts, but I
I give a ton of talks, and then oftentimes people, especially other speakers, will come and will want to talk to me and basically try to figure out how to give good talks. There’s the same question, but it’s asked in multiple ways. It’s like, how do I give a really compelling talk, or how do I write really great blog content? How do I put together a really amazing newsletter, or how do I do really great YouTube videos, or whatever it is. How do I create an incredibly compelling content? A lot of times when I ask them, when I give the question back and ask them, “Why do you think this is working?” I go, “What do you think is compelling about my talk?” or, “What did you like about what I do?” A lot of people will look at the superficial side of things, like the style, and they will forget about the substance. Here’s my main statement that I don’t think most people don’t want to hear this, which is that, to give really great talks, and to share really great stories on stage, and to write really amazing blog posts, you have to have lived a lot of life. You have to have a lot of fucking experiences. You have to have eaten a lot of shit, you’ve had to had a lot of glamorous successes. You have to do shit to have things to talk about, to have stories to talk about, to have answers to difficult questions, to have solutions to difficult problems that people have. Not just solutions and stories that are on the superficial level, but you share things with people that come from experience and come from a deep-rooted wisdom moreso than just superficial knowledge. You have to put in the work. You just have to put in the work. If you want to be a great storyteller, you have to have a fucking interesting life. You have to take risks. You have to go be out there in the world doing things, experiencing things so you have stories to tell. You can’t just be reading Reddit and whatever the fuck people read all day, Hacker News and whatever, and then think that you can write amazing stuff or you can share amazing stories on stage. One of the reasons, and this might sound too self … I don’t know, maybe this is not humble enough. One of the reasons why we can have conversations without having to do a lot of scripting or editing is that you and I have a lot of experience. We’ve done a lot of different things. It’s not that hard for us to talk about things and have stories to share or tactics to share. I could go on and keep ranting, but I’m actually curious to your response to this. This is like the broccoli and workout answer to how can I lose weight? The unpopular thing everybody already knows but doesn’t want to do. It takes time, it takes hard work, it takes dedication, and you have to put in a lot into life to get a lot out of. If you want to have compelling things to share with the world, you have to have done shit. Am I crazy here?
Yeah. Of course you’re crazy. I love what you said, but there’s one thing I don’t want people to take away the wrong way. I like the idea that if you’re going to give a great talk, write great content, write great emails, do great marketing, be a storyteller to some extent, that you have to take some personal experience, take what you’ve done and actually put it out there and use that as a way to build an audience, or write compelling things, or have passion about something so it comes across when you sort of speak and talk, and all this stuff. I really love that. I would never, ever disagree with that, because it’s a pattern I’ve seen, it’s a pattern you’ve seen. The one part that I would say I wouldn’t want the audience to take away is that you need to have the experience. What I mean by that is, if you’ve never given a talk before or you’ve never written a piece of content before for an audience for any reason, or even written a long Facebook post, let’s just make it a little bit easier, or maybe a great tweet, I think that doesn’t need you need to go get experience to go do it. It just means that you need to think harder about your own experience and how can it be compelling to someone else for you to share it. I can probably pick anyone, even a 18-year-old, and dig out a nugget, it might take a while, but dig out a nugget. Take a while meaning, not about being drunk at parties or something like that. Take a nugget that I heard from them and help them turn it into a story that’s compelling for whatever they’re trying to do. I think it’s more about, there’s a lot of ways to do the work. I would just say, do the work would be really what this episode’s probably about. I used that word when we were talking earlier. I’m like, “Nobody wants to hear it, they don’t want to hear that it just takes work.” Doing the work could mean a lot of different things. In this case, if you’re not experienced or feel like you aren’t, I wouldn’t want you to think that you have to go get it. I would say that you already have it, you just don’t know how to communicate it, or you don’t know how what you’re trying to do can relate to it. I’m finding this more and more. When we were talking about these different topics that we could talk about and this do the work came up, for me what I realized is people just generally don’t want to hear that effort is what it takes to go figure something out. Steli was asking something really specific that I’m not ready to share yet, I’m not sure I will be, because my answer’s going to be very much the same because I’ve been doing the work. I’ve been literally doing the work and learning these new things, and wracking my brain on it, having arguments with people about it that don’t mean anything anymore five minutes later. It’s very stressful, to be honest, in the moment. Right now I can completely laugh about it and so can they. It takes work. You have to be willing to do it, and you have to almost have a leap of faith that it’s worth it. I think what a lot of people get caught up in is that, Hiten, you’re famous, to some extent, or you have an audience or something, so this is easy for you. You know what? Fuck, no. It’s just as hard as when I first started, and all I know how to do, and, Steli, I know you’ll agree with this, is just put in the work, put in the effort, just go do it. Just literally push yourself through it and take whatever pain it requires. The whole analogy about working out, building muscle, having those small tears that hurt and make your muscles sore, that I love and hate at the same time, that’s the work. Just take that analogy to town and find a way to feel that in whatever you’re doing, including if you feel like you have no experience. I bet there’s experience that you have that you could share and turn into whatever you want.
I love that. That’s true. As you were talking about this, I don’t know, I agree with you that everybody has a story to share, and everybody, if they look close enough and be open enough and authentic enough, they’ll find something. Even giving your first talk itself can be part of your talk, the nervousness, the trying to figure out how to provide value to the audience. There’s a story there. Why were you invited in the first place, and all that. The do the work part is, be prepared to do the unglamorous work. I think really it’s that. I think that in today’s world, there’s so much focus on the shortcut. There’s so much focus on the hack, and what’s the scalable hackity hacky thing I can do to get to some massive result in some very little time with very little effort. I think that that’s kind of the most popular story that’s being shared, especially in the entrepreneurship community and startup community. That everybody’s just trying to get there with the least amount of effort. What we have, I think, always been big champions of, and this is what do the work really means, is there’s no shortcut worth taking. Put in the effort. Whatever you put in, you’ll get out. You need to put in the work, you need to do the work. It’s the basics. It’s not that complicated to do, it’s just things that probably you really don’t want to do. It’s the, why there are a million diet books and a gazillion diet regimens out there in the world, because people, when you tell them just eat healthy and move your body, they go, “Yeah, but I don’t want to do that. What’s the other solution to my problem? I want to lose weight, but I don’t want to do the things that I know how to do to lose weight.” These things are not glamorous, these things are not fun, these things are really inconvenient, these things, for whatever reason, are not the things that people want to do. I think we all have this in our lives where there’s obvious answers, but we’re still looking for the solution because we don’t like the answer or the solution that is right in front of us. With a lot of this stuff, like writing compelling content, is one example of what we’re talking about. The way to do that, as you said, there’s no shortcut thing. You have to do the work, you have to put in the effort to make it really, really great. You have to keep putting in the effort and keep improving on it. Is this like an old man syndrome? Is this kind of like a, this young generation doesn’t do it, or is this really a trend that I’m seeing of the hacking being such a big term and idea, and automating things, and hacking, and scaling, and outsourcing. This idea of you don’t have to work really hard, you just have to be really smart. Recently there was a pretty popular Twitter thread, you might have seen this. I don’t even remember who started this where somebody was saying, it’s actually pretty insulting to think that you can just be outsmarting the smartest people on Earth. Eventually being smart is not enough and you’ll have to outwork all the other really smart people that compete with you. I don’t know if you saw that.
I did. This is not old man syndrome, this is like hard truths that if you haven’t seen the effects of working like this, you probably don’t appreciate it as much. To me this is hard truths, this is not old man syndrome. We are old men now, I would say in a lot of ways. At least, I feel like it every day.
Wise men. Let’s use that terminology.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in another 35 years or how I’m going to feel, but I’ll probably feel young by then. Right now I feel old as fuck. It’s a good point. I think it’s just like, once you’ve been through enough life experiences, you just realize that nothing’s going to get done unless I put in effort, nothing. What I mean by that is, nothing meaningful.
I love it. I think we’ll wrap this episode up with those last famous words. Do the work. There’s no way around that, just do the work, put in the effort. I think that’s it from us.