Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about what’s currently on every entrepreneur’s mind – the holiday season!

For the most people, this time of year is a time for celebrating the holidays with family and friends. But for many founders and entrepreneurs, the end of the year is a time to reflect on the last year and think ahead to the new one.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about what you can do to use this time of year in the most productive way and make sure the new year is even more successful than the last.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:36 – About today’s episode.
  • 02:58 – Hiten talks about why this season is used as a time for reflection.
  • 04:00 – Steli points out that everyone finishes the year with reflection and goal-setting.
  • 05:03 – Steli shares an online discussion he participated in, in whether you should hustle or take a break through the holidays.
  • 07:19 – Hiten points out that making such decisions personal to entrepreneurs.
  • 08:05 – Why the decision to work or take a break during the holiday season is irrelevant to both Steli and Hiten.
  • 09:38 – What you should really do instead.
  • 11:49 – Why it’s important to should use this season to reflect and think about what to do in the new year.
  • 15:18 – Steli points out that momemtum in all areas of life can be a good and bad thing.
  • 16:06 – Steli teaches a hack that you can use to track your year.


  • What to do should not be a discussion — “to each his own” is a phrase that perfectly applies to this.
  • Do the things that you want — it’s your personal choice.
  • Track your year by listing down your biggest achievements and the lessons you’ve learned.



Steli: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.



Hiten: And this is Hiten Shah and today on the Startup Chat, what are we going to talk about Steli?



Steli: Well, Hiten, I think we’re going to talk about the mood that we’re all in, which is, you know, we’re kind of in the tradition between holidays, New Year’s, and kind of kicking off 2018. I think we’re going to talk a little bit about that season from an entrepreneurial point of view, from a subtle point of view. First, things slow down, right? Kind of, I think it puts people into kind of a contemplating mood, you start reflecting back on how this year went, and you start trying to prepare for what the goals and what the change is, and what the, quote, unquote, resolution should be for next year. I think we want to just go through this a little bit from our own lenses and maybe highlight some of the things startups and entrepreneurs can do to use this time in the most productive way possible to make sure that the next year is going to be killer and successful and that they accomplish the right type of things that they want.



Hiten: Yeah, I love that. I think I’d like to split it into two. I think there’s two things people do during this time in my experience, which is they reflect on the year and what’s gone on, in this case in 2017, and then they think about kind of what’s next. In some cases, one thing I wanted to mention is, you mention startup and founder perspective. I found this to be a business and personal perspective as well, holistically, regardless of size of company or what you’re up to because a lot of companies go into planning mode pre-holidays and even into the holidays depending on how aggressive the company is and how much they let you have a holiday, so to speak. They’re planning out next year, they’re doing forecasts and all the fun / boring stuff depending on how you look at it. And then, other companies that are much smaller, like a startup, they tend to not have formal processes. Sometimes they don’t even think about this stuff, but there’s still a bunch of reflection and kind of figuring out what’s next going on. Let’s talk about reflection really quickly. What I found, and this is mostly in the advisor role I have in a lot of situations whether it’s with friends or companies I’m formally advising, as well as in my own companies. I definitely take that role more than I take any other role. It’s either advisor coach or some form of a manager. In terms of the contributor to the work, that’s definitely in a latter, kind of Q4 of most years, I’m more on the other side, not as much as the contributor to things. What I’ve found is this is the easiest time to get somebody to reflect on the past, especially the past year. That’s one of the most common things I found. Sometimes it’s even easy on a personal note to get people to reflect even further back because of the holidays and the time with family. That’s how I’m going to start on the reflection side of things.



Steli: It’s an easy time to reflect so you might as well use it to do so. That is actually a really interesting observation, very astute. I think that we don’t have to dive into too much why that is. I’m sure it has multiple reasons why. One is just the season in general when the days get shorter, it gets darker earlier, people start to kind of close in on the chapter of the year from a seasonality point of view and think about the next year. It just puts you in a certain mood. Then, people are just in that mood. In general, people start talking more about it. The talking that pops up in social media, the conversations you are having with friends and family and colleagues, everything just starts evolving around finishing up this year, looking back. Closer to New Year’s, people start thinking ahead and start planning. It’s a good time. If you’re in that mood, don’t fight it. One tip that I’ll give is, some people like to be rebellious and be like, this is all bullshit and I don’t like the holidays. I’m not a particular fan of holidays or celebrations in general. Not that I’m not a fan, I’m just not overly participatory when it comes to this stuff. When everything around you is in that mood and the momentum of something pushes in one direction, you might as well just use that energy and go with it and go, well, if everybody’s reflecting back, let’s just use this time instead of fighting it and do so ourselves as well. This points to a quick side note that I want to bring up. There was a little bit of a discussion going on online about should you hustle through the holidays and work through it as a startup, or should you take a break. I think some founder or ex-founder, or whatever, posted a like. Some start-ups will slow down and take holiday break. The ones that don’t, they have an advantage over you there. They’re going to kick start the next year with a competitive advantage. Something along those lines. Then, there were many other founders that reacted negatively to them. There was a whole debate going on in social media, I’m sure you saw this, about should you take a break or not take a break or do both or whatever. It’s an interesting …



Hiten: I actually didn’t see it.



Steli: Oh, you didn’t see it.



Hiten: Because I didn’t see it, I have even a stronger opinion about it.



Steli: All right, so hit us with it.



Hiten: Fuck this shit. I don’t know. That’s my reaction. My reaction is like that because it’s, you know what, I really strongly feel like this about it because after so many years of working on stuff, working on business, it’s just like, God, just do you. If you want to take a fucking break, do it. If you want to go figure out how to hustle or keep working, you know what, do it. All I hate about this is, there should be no rule around this. There should be no guidance anybody tries to give you because it doesn’t fucking matter. That’s the truth. Like right now, in my case, I don’t know how to stop working. I’d be working regardless. But, if I told you, hey, I worked hard this year at the end of the year compared to last year, I have no fucking idea. I don’t know. Why is this even a discussion? Just do you. If you want to take a break, take a fucking break. If you feel like taking a break, take a break. If you want to keep working and do what you do, do what you do. Right? It’s so personal. I guess that’s my response. It’s personal. It’s fucking personal. So many things happen in our lives that are not just our businesses, that affect our businesses, and our businesses affect our personal life. But, it just doesn’t fucking matter. Why are we making this such a big deal, right? This is so personal. People are going to do what they’re going to do. If you feel like you need to work through the holidays because you’re not going to … Someone is going to beat you, I’m sorry for you, I really am.



Steli: Yeah. This is why 90 percent of the time when people argue on social media at times, I look at it and I go, I could say something here and probably benefit from a retweet or point of view, like exposure point of view, because people like those kind of arguments. A lot of attention flows towards them. But I don’t really care. I just don’t. I can take a counter opinion to this, but I don’t really care about this discussion. I think in many cases, we often land on the, there’s not a fucking … There is a … It depends. There is not an answer that’s universally true. Some people should work through the holidays and other people shouldn’t. It shouldn’t be determined by some fucking expert or founder or successful person on Twitter. And, it shouldn’t be determined on your competition. And, it shouldn’t be determined on your bad conscious or your stressful inner voice that’s trying to tell you that you’re not enough and you need to work less or more. Be more like this guy or less like that girl. It depends. It depends on your situation. If you’re totally inspired and out of your mind motivated and your work gives you joy and there’s not anything that you have to take away from, work through the holidays. Awesome. Who gives a shit that these are holidays? If you’re a 22 year old kid somewhere away from family, it doesn’t matter if it’s holidays or not. Maybe this is the best time for you to work. Maybe it’s quiet, nobody is in the office, nobody is bothering you. You can be the most creative person you are. That might the best gift you can give yourself. In other situations, it’s crazy for you to work and feel the need to answer some bullshit emails and do busy work all day to just create the feeling that you are progressing or that you are not falling behind. I couldn’t agree more with you. But, this goes back to, it depends. What is right for you is the right question. Not, what is everybody else doing. What is the right thing to do as a startup during the holidays? There is no such thing. There’s no right thing to do. For every piece of advice, and I tell this often. I’ve gotten into the habit, Hiten, that whenever I give really strong advice to somebody, whenever I’m incredibly convinced of what I’m saying is right and I say that in a very forceful way, I always now end with this side note, or this public service announcement. I always go, and this is the way to do, and by the way, for everything that I’m telling you, there’s ten counter examples of startups that did it the other way and still succeeded. I’m just putting that out there. There’s always a counter example. There’s always somebody that did it differently that still succeeded. There’s not one path to doing life. And, there’s not one path to doing startups or entrepreneurship or business. Don’t look for what am I supposed to do during the holidays. Ask yourself, how do I feel; what’s my life; what’s the context around my life. How do you use that context at this time in the best way possible for me. Right?



Hiten: You know, this is why I love giving one on one advice and I really hate generic, I have to go up and speak and give everyone advice. The best advice I have is don’t take anyone else’s advice. If I’m up on stage trying to give some generic bullshit advice. If you have to caveat it, it’s not really advice in my opinion. I think … Not to get off on this tangent, or I’m sorry, to get off on this tangent-



Steli: To get off on this tangent.



Hiten: When I give advice and it’s one to one, it’s always great. The reason it’s great is I listen to the person. I hear what they have to say. Honestly, half the people I talk to, I tell them, you better be working right now. The other half of the people, I tell them, you better take a break. That’s just what it boils down to. I can’t say to everybody the same thing. This is the problem with these Twitter debates, like you said. I think we’ve talked a bunch about reflecting, right? I think we can talk about growth. The one thing I’ll say is, this is a great opportunity to think about what I call, what’s next, and what you have upcoming in your life regardless of whether you’re the hard worker doing some hard work, so to speak, or trying to relax during the holidays or whatever. Just thinking about what’s next in whatever way is really useful especially because ideally you probably just reflected. Reflecting is like one of the easiest things to do right now. It’s actually typically hard during times when the world is moving faster. Definitely in Q4, starting Thanksgiving and onward, especially in the U.S., I’m sure in other countries too, but other countries I hear from are a lot more chill most of the time anyways. But, it’s just a great time to think about what are you going to do next year, what’s going to happen, whether it’s personal or professionally or in any way that kind of resonates with you.



Steli: The thing that I love about this time of year is that momentum is such a powerful thing. We’ve talked about momentum plenty of times here. It can be a good and a bad thing. Momentum in all areas of life. When you have been doing something more and more and more and more, at some point very hard to stop that thing, especially when you’re going the wrong direction. It’s important to keep doing the same thing if you’re going in the right direction. The beauty of this season is because things slow down, it gives a chance to ask what’s next from a perspective of what needs to change. When you’re not in the day-to-day hustle bustle and stress, it’s easier to then potentially adjust and add or subtract something from what’s going on in your life or your startup. Right? I would take this time when it comes to thinking about what’s next and ask the question, a year from now, like next year during this time, what do I want to look back to when I think about the year. What should have happened; where do I want to be; where should we be. What is something that I’ve been carrying out for this year that next year around this time I don’t want to have anymore. I want to let that go. Startups have habits. Startups keep doing things, any group of people will keep doing things, that will be useful and valuable but we will also get into the habit of doing things past their prime or past their utility. Being able to take a moment and ask, what do I want a year from now and what do I not want to have anymore a year from now. What do we need to let go of? Where do we need to change? By asking those big questions, and one way to do it is to go backwards, to start with the end in mind, like end of next year. Working your way backwards to the beginning of the new year. The other way to do it, and I tend to do both things, bottom up and top down. The other way to do things is not to think a year or two or three or five ahead, but just to think a day ahead. From a day-to-day perspective, what’s one little thing I want to add and I want to add consistently and do throughout the entire year. And, what’s one little thing that I’m doing that I want to subtract, just take out. That’s usually the way that I approach the new year, reflecting on a high level, but also taking the time to think big picture. What do I want to accomplish a year from now and jump back, but also what do I want to add and subtract on a daily basis, habitual basis. And then think, if I do this for 365 days, do I think that’s going to create a ton of value.



Hiten: I love the subtraction part. I think a lot of people don’t think about what they can stop doing or what they can less of. Especially, the idea of doing it in small chunks, day to day. I don’t actually have anything to add. I think you really gave people a lot to think about, if they’re thinking right now.



Steli: Sweet. Well, wrap this episode up then in just one second. I’ll just throw out one more thing that I forgot to mention. We talked about this in a prior episode. I don’t remember which one. This little hack that I do where I have an Evernote or you can have any kind of note that you want, where I track the entire year, a gratitude tracker. I just put in a month, like December, and then in bullet points I just write down everything good, awesome, or exciting. Things that happened during that month that I’m grateful for. At the end of the year, I just go through the entire list to kind of reflect on the year. Depending on how much time I have, I go back two or three years. Usually I write a little summary about the year, and I’ll read the summaries just to reflect because life is a blur. I don’t remember what happened four months ago, three months ago, the entire year. Sometimes in the moment, I feel like, oh, this year was really stressful or this year was not as great or this or that. But then when I look at that bullet point list, I go, holy shit, this year was amazing; I totally forgot about it. One of those exercises that I tend to do at the end of the year and one exercise that I can highly recommend everybody to add as a habit for the next year. I’m not a big journal guy, but this bullet point in a simple text editor, that habit has worked for me really wondrous. I’ve been doing this four or five years. With that out of the way, we wish all of you an incredible life, day, and next year, if you’re listening to this prior the new year. We’ll hear you very soon.



Hiten: See ‘ya.