Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the challenges of being an entrepreneur in today’s ultra-competitive business world.

Although there are lots of positives to being an entrepreneur, like being your own boss, working when you want to and how you want to, choosing your staff and ideally making a significant profit, there are also some difficulties that may come your way on your entrepreneurship journey.

From trying to establish a brand to working really long hours, dealing with the competition and staying profitable, being an entrepreneur can be very challenging and depressing sometimes, no matter how long you’ve been in business.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten address some of these challenges and share some tips on how to deal with them so you can operate an efficient and successful business.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 Steli and Hiten about today’s topic.

00:30 Why they chose to talk about this topic.

03:00 Hiten reads a text message they received from a struggling entrepreneur.

03:38 Hiten’s tip for dealing with challenging times in your business.

05:34 Steli talks about the difference between having challenges and suffering with them.

07:15 Steli’s philosophy when dealing with challenging times in life.

10:21 Hiten talks about why you should identify the cause of any challenge you might be going through.

12:38 Steli talks about Zen founder, a podcast by Rob and Sherry Walling.

3 Key Points:

  • Problems are mandatory but suffering is optional.
  • The reason I’m struggling with something is because I’m not doing it right.
  • Emotions are what usually gets the best of us in the worst situations.


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



Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.



Steli Efti: And today on the StartUp Chat, we want to talk about is entrepreneurship hard even after you’ve doing it for many, many years and should it be. And here’s the deal. Hiten, you and I we’re friends with the founder. And that founder sent both of us a text message last night. And this was a personal text message, so I’m not gonna share who it is, but I’m pretty sure that if you’re listening you know who you are. The founder just had, I think, a moment where things were overwhelming, and he reached to us to share that moment with us, which I-



Hiten Shah: Hang on. Hang on. Hang on. Hang on. Hang on. Hang on. I love that we’re doing this one. Just wanted to say that.



Steli Efti: Okay. Very good. I didn’t tell Hiten that we’re doing this episode. This is one of the ones where I’m like, “Keaton, let’s record. I’ll tell you what I want to talk about, I’m sure. We’re gonna just rock and roll with it without talking about it first.”



Hiten Shah: It was in my head. It was in head, and like I forgot, dude. So good. Let’s do this.



Steli Efti: Awesome. So we get this text message. It felt like a vulnerable moment where this founder which is like exhausted and texted both of us saying, “Dudes, even after fucking,” whatever it was, “15 years of being an entrepreneur doing startups, why is this is so fucking hard? Man this sucks. This is so hard.” He sends us this. I receive the text, Hiten receives the text and I have multiple thoughts here, right? Once I received it. One is, I’m really grateful that he feels so connected to us and feels trust us so much that he feels that it’s okay to be vulnerable. That he feels like “okay, these are two founders that I experience that I can be honest with. I don’t have to fuck around. I don’t have to pretend I’m always strong and I know everything. I can just be myself and they’ll understand. They’ll be okay. They won’t judge me, they might be able to help me.” On the one hand, I love that. On the other hand I was very conflicted on how to respond to this, right? Because part of me wants to just have empathy and understanding, say, “Yeah, things are sometimes hard.” Part of me wants to kick him in the ass. I have all these different conflicting thoughts and emotions and I didn’t respond to his text message, and I noticed you didn’t respond either at least not until this morning.



Hiten Shah: Nope.



Steli Efti: I wanted to talk to you about this. I wanted to talk about it in general, like entrepreneurship and startups being really, really hard. Is this true? Should it be true? Especially if you’ve done it a long time. What are our thoughts about that?



Hiten Shah: Okay, can I read what he texted?



Steli Efti: Yes, it doesn’t identify him, so I think it’s totally cool.



Hiten Shah: No it does not. It does not. Honestly, I don’t even think he’d care, but we’re going to respect it, because we’re like that. It was a group thread, it was a text message that said, “I don’t know why startups are so painful sometimes. Even after 15 years, I still find myself crying.”



Steli Efti: Wow, yeah.



Hiten Shah: He’s a sweet heart first of all. I’m not surprised he sent that to us, because I think we definitely have a connection to him because we both really like him and enjoy our time with him. One of the things I think that I’m going to start with on this is like, there was a bunch of tweets also that were about, “Oh it never gets easier, that’s kind of the dirty secret, so don’t tell anyone that when they start.” I got to say that like, one of the hardest things to do in a startup and I think you and I have like, this is a pattern that we’ve talked about a lot is controlling your emotions. It’s literally, I’ve got to say the word is control. I wish I had a more like generous word. It’s an aggressive word and for me I think it’s general, most of us, whether we’re running our own companies or not, the emotions are what usually get the best of us in the worst situations. This friend was definitely having a moment, he’s been at it for 15 years. It’s not like he just started a year ago and he’s like telling us, “Hey, does it get any easier?” He’s literally like, “Yo, I’m crying over some shit here and like, I felt like I was doing that 15 years ago, I’m still doing that.” For me, it’s your reaction to things, it’s controlling your emotions, but not like … It’s just awareness of them I think that’s most important, not that I’m trying that don’t feel it, but when you feel it, understand what it is. We’re all going through this and also realizing that you’re not alone. I think even him texting us, I think it was like 6:34AM Pacific when he texted us.



Steli Efti: Yeah, I don’t remember what time it was. I saw the text, I felt like late at night, I don’t really know, it’s all a blur.



Hiten Shah: Yeah, it was … Oh no, sorry. It was 6:34PM, my bad.



Steli Efti: PM, there you go.



Hiten Shah: I was like AM, whoa. Like I don’t know, I think this is the norm. It’s not going to get any better. That’s why not everyone starts their own business.



Steli Efti: True, I want to say something. I don’t know why, but I want to say something a little opposing of this view to a certain degree. I’m of two minds and hearts here. Because on the one hand, it’s true man, things are hard. Life is hard. If life isn’t hard, you’re not doing it right, to a certain degree in my mind. The heart doesn’t need to be suffering. There’s a difference between having challenges and problems and between suffering with them, right? We’ve talked about this before I think.



Hiten Shah: I like that.



Steli Efti: I think suffering is a choice, I think having problems isn’t. You’re going to have problems, you’re going to have challenges, you’re going to have things that suck and that’s fine and that’s normal. I think you’re living a healthy human life if you have problems and challenges. I don’t think you need to … I think suffering is really optional. Problems are mandatory, but suffering is optional. When I read this, the one thing I wanted to say, “Yeah dude, shit’s hard and I get it and sometimes it sucks.” I’m not somebody that … One thing that I love about him is that he’s a sweetheart and he’s an emotional person, more so than even I am. It’s very hard for me to have super high highs, and super low lows, right? I don’t cry that often, but I’m not like overall out of my mind, excited or happy about things either, although this is surprising to people. I think this is something that we too have in common, right?



Hiten Shah: Yeah, totally.



Steli Efti: On the one hand I’m like, “Yeah dude. Shit’s hard sometimes. I get it. I get you. You’re not alone.” On the other hand I want to say, “I have this philosophy, that is if whatever I do that’s really hard, like anything that’s really, really hard means I’m not doing it right.” That’s kind of my personal philosophy, which means that if I’m struggling with something, struggling. Not if I’m inconvenienced, if I have to fix a problem, when I’m struggling and suffering through a problem through the starter world, I’m always catching myself and asking myself, is there a person out there that would not feel like this is so overwhelming? That would look at this problem that I have and would fell like it’s a small problem? The answer’s always yes. Just like some of the problems that I felt were overwhelmingly hard 10 years ago, today I think are nothing. Super simple. Easy. Because I have grown and I have mastered certain skillsets and I have accumulated certain experiences. The problems that are really hard to me today, are different from those that were really hard to me 10 years ago. Just like, when I was 12 and some girl broke up with me it was the end of the fucking world. It was literally the end of the world. Today, I would look at my 12 niece when she just broke up with her boyfriend and thinks it’s the end of the world, to a certain degree it’s cute. Then I remind myself that for her, this is a really, really tough thing and it’s totally legitimate to feel that way. We grow in skills, we grow in abilities, we grow in experiences. When you are most skilled, problems that seem to the less skilled very, very overwhelming and challenging, are not, are actually pretty simple to solve. Whenever something is incredibly hard for me to solve, I just think to myself, “Well shit. It means I’m not doing it right.” It means either I’m not the right person, this is not the right time, or I haven’t quite the right approach or skill to fix this problem.” The reason I’m struggling is that I’m just not doing it right. At least that’s my personal philosophy. On one hand I want to hug this founder and tell him, “Yeah dude. Shit’s always going to be hard.” On the other hand I want to kick his ass and go, “Mother fucker, just learn faster, learn more. You shouldn’t have the same problems you had 10 years ago, it should be new problems and things should get easier overtime at least for periods of time.” I’m like, is this really because you’re in a such more challenging position, or is it because there’s certain lessons that you’re not willing to learn so you’re holding onto certain problems and you’re suffering through the same thing again, and again, and again. I don’t know what it is. He didn’t tell us what the problem was or why it was hard, or why he had that moment. I don’t have the context to really judge. These are my two reactions when I hear people telling me they have something that they’re doing something that’s really, really hard and they seem to suffering during that time. It’s the same to myself. I’m not above this, I have moments where I’m overwhelmed or suffering, or overly worried, or like negative on something. “Why I have all this stuff? Why do I always have to deal with da-da-da.” I usually catch myself fairly soon and go, “Well mother fucker, you’re doing it wrong. You’re just doing it wrong. You know? If you knew how to do it better, it would be easier. Just fucking try to learn and change.” That’s my reaction when I hear that. I don’t know, what are your thoughts on this?



Hiten Shah: I had to tweet it, problems are mandatory, but suffering is optional. You summed it up extremely well as to like how to speak to someone when they’re feeling that way. What I really also want to double down on is, if you feel like you’re having the same feeling over and over again, there are a set of patterns that are causing it. You kind of alluded to that. If you want to get over this feeling, you have to find what those set of patterns are. Right now, if we talk to this friend, I think both of us probably come at him and say, “hey”, after you told him to get over himself. Which I think is also accurate in some ways, just because like, he should. He should move on from this and get at a solution really fast. I think we’d probably talk to him about like, “What’s the pattern here? When you felt like this before, what was the cause of it? Where was your responsibility for that cause of this emotion that you’re feeling?” What’s the pattern inside of it of something that either you’re doing or not doing that you should stop or start doing?” In his case it’s probably just some kind of perspective he has on stations is what I would guess. The only reason I’m guessing that is, this person has a high level of emotion and empathy. He’s probably putting that on himself in a big way. That’s causing him to spiral in terms of his own thought process and emotions, and honestly getting negative. I think a lot of this has to do with also not letting yourself get so negative, that you get stuck in the pattern and can’t see above it or see underneath it and figure out where it’s coming from. For me, myself, the emotions come. It’s the patterns that I look for though. Because that’s when I know I’ve gotten past the emotion and found the reason. Once I find that reason and that pattern it’s my job to, for a lack of a better word, reframe. For lack of a better word, reprogram myself so that I can prevent it or at least catch it earlier and make sure that I’m being my best self. Because usually when you have these emotions and you consider them suffering, you’re not being your best self, you’re being your worst self.



Steli Efti: I love that. We’ll wrap this episode up with this. I have a little shout out to give, to Sherry Walling and Rob Walling those are two friends of ours. They have a podcast called Zen Founder. Sherry has a background in psychology and psychiatry and she’s been married to an entrepreneur and she’s been an entrepreneur herself. They’re doing a podcast where they talk a lot about these emotional things. I know that they are just about in January to release an ebook on how to be founder without losing your shit. I think that there’s a lot of emotional stuff in there. I know that there’s parts of interviews Sherry did with you and me, in the ebook. For founders out there that want to have more control over their emotions, that maybe are going through the motions, maybe a nice little recommendation to check out the Zen Founder podcast and I’m pretty sure they’re going to publish the ebook somewhere there so you’re going to be able to find it.



Hiten Shah: Yep, I have to double click on that.



Steli Efti: Alright, that’s it from us for this episode.