In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about taking the time to remember your journey. They also talk about how self reflection can be used as a powerful tool to gain perspective and gratitude on your entrepreneurship journey.

As an entrepreneur, it can be easy to rush forward without looking back but self-reflection is an essential tool for personal and professional success. Self-reflection gives you the opportunity to recognise your personal growth and can be a tool to motivate yourself towards identifying where you are going.

Positive self reflection should highlight what has inspired you, what actions have brought you to where you are today and where have you grown from the lessons learnt from past mistakes. We are constantly changing and evolving, recognising how far you have come can be a powerful tool to drive you forward.

Tune into this week’s episode of The Startup Chat to reveal how self reflection can be used in your life to empower your vision and fuel your growth. As well as Steli and Hiten’s personal examples of how to actively use this in your life, on the path to success.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:38 The personal experience that introduced self reflection

04:10 Think positively, use self affirmations, stop negative inner dialogues and create self belief

05:25 The whole idea is to give you a prospective

07:35 The story of a 1,000 applications and the determination to succeed.

08:50 An exercise for transformation and self reflection.

09:32 Transformational opportunities for self reflection are all around us

10:36 A personal account of identifying professional growth

14:13 Take time to remember

14:36 Self reflection is not just for the end of the year

15:55 Practical benefits of remembering

3 Key Points:

  • The gratitude to remember that we all start our journeys at a different points
  • It is so easy to get caught up in where you are today and forget where you were a long time ago
  • It inspires me to have hope in the future, as I can see I have grown



Steli Efti: Everybody this is Steli Efti.



Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.



Steli Efti: And today on the Startup Chat we wanna talk about … I’m not even sure what we wanna talk about. I wanna share a little story … A little Uber ride story I was on.



Hiten Shah: People like talking about more than just sales and Marketing.



Steli Efti: We just wanna bullshit and chat about business and life, and hopefully while we’re doing that provide a little value to people.



Hiten Shah: The world’s best business podcast!



Steli Efti: Oh!



Hiten Shah: Shit!



Steli Efti: Shit! We got it!



Hiten Shah: We’re people trying to get shit done. Yeah.



Steli Efti: Done. We don’t want to give you feedback that’s bullshit.



Hiten Shah: We want you to do your best.



Steli Efti: And how we put me back to a time when I was just starting out as an entrepreneur. And when I started on my journey of personal growth. And I just wanted to share that with you, and explore that, and hear a little bit about some of your thoughts. And maybe transform you back to the day when you started with some of these things.



Hiten Shah: Sure.



Steli Efti: So the other day I was traveling and I got picked up at an airport by an Uber driver. And usually when I’m in a car I like to listen to either an audiobook or podcast, or music. I’m not really super chit-chatty, I don’t interact that much in the car ride. But this time something funny happened. I jumped into this car ride, it’s super cold outside, it’s like 11:50pm at night, I’m exhausted. I’m just about to put in my headphones and listen to some music or something, and the guy that starts driving the car has a CD in there and I hear Jim Rohn, I think. A super old-school motivational self-help guru. And it’s like a self-help tape. And as I was putting in my headphones, I took them out again. And I looked at the driver, and the driver seemed … It was obviously an immigrant, somebody that has probably not been living in the country for a long time. And I was instantly transformed back to a time when I was 17, 18 years old, when I discovered self-help and positive thinking, and I discovered entrepreneurship. And I discovered all these things through books, because I didn’t have any entrepreneurs in my life. And I remembered back when I read these self-help books, and when I started even discovering the idea of positive thinking, and how incredibly impactful it was back when I discovered it. And how it completely changed the way I was thinking. And thinking positively seems like such an obvious basic concept, but it was mind-blowing to me when I was 17. I’d never been exposed to any of that kind of thinking before. I was so nostalgic. On one hand, I was to the journey, when I was at the very beginning of my journey, when I was discovering these very easy concepts that were life-changing to me. I was nostalgic seeing that guy was younger and he seemed like somebody that has very little means, and is very hungry, and wants to make positive change in his life. And I was inspired by that and reminded of myself. For the entire ride, I didn’t listen to any music, I was listening to Rohn and to motivational things with him. I wanted to start a conversation asking questions and learn about him and instantly jump into helping him and giving advice, or helping in any way I can. But at the same time, I didn’t want to talk, I just wanted to listen and share the ride with him, and remember how it felt when I was driving to my customer visits listening to self-help, Tony Robbins books or whatever the hell else I was listening to. And I think oftentimes today some of the things that really changed my life, 15, 20 years ago, today I can’t listen to anymore because these ideas are not mind-blowing anymore, I’m not that attracted to them today. But I was super grateful to be reminded that everybody starts their journey at a different point. And for me back then, if you told me, “Think positively, use self-affirmation to tell yourself what you want. Atop negative inner dialogues, and create self-belief through positive thought.” These things were a big part of what helped me even believe that I could be an entrepreneur and start a business. They were a big part of why I accomplished a lot of things down the line, although today they seem like trivial things. And I don’t know. Maybe it’s like a remembering where we’re coming from, and how far of a journey we’ve taken. Maybe that’s gonna be the theme of the episode. But I just wanted to share that because it was a special moment and a weird moment, and see how we react to that.



Hiten Shah: Yeah. I love that it brought you back, that experience. Because I think that it is so easy to get caught up in where you are today and forget where you were a long time ago. And so that reminder of hearing those motivational tapes or motivational words, and being brought back to a place when you really needed them, they were really helpful, you sort of gravitated towards them and they helped change your mindset. ‘Cause those are what those things are supposed to do. Right? They’re supposed to change your mindset, that’s the whole idea. Give you a perspective you don’t have, help you learn, in a way, about yourself, right? That’s why they call it self-help, right? Or motivational speaking, whatever it is. I guess my experience with this has always been … I off and on still listen to various things, I look for new types of motivational content or self-help. And I even have an opinion about the word self-help, but I’ll save that for another episode. I think we’re in a much different world than when those things were more popular. Or sorry, becoming popular, is the right way to say it, they are very popular. And the one thing I’ll say is back then there was only a few styles of self-help what you could hear. Now self-help honestly, to some people, on this podcast this is self-help.



Steli Efti: Yeah.



Hiten Shah: Right? To be honest, so we’re kind of motivational speakers in that way, if you want to really go there. I think there’s a lot of religious/spiritual content out there, not to bucket those two things together, but they kinda are sometimes. That’s also self-help. Sermons, church: these things, in a way, in a big way are self-help too. And some of us, all of us have been exposed to it in one way or another. In my specific case I think a lot of the motivation I got was actually from my father growing up. So with my father, I learned my own value system and my own, I got my motivation by the stories he’d tell. He loves to tell stories about himself, the people he’s helped, and experiences he’s had and how he felt about them, and how he described them. And a lot of those are still in my head. Even as I’m talking, they all just come up, and I’m like “Oh that time, and that time, and that time, and that time, and that time.” And I’ve heard some of these over and over again. They never really get old, it’s one of those things, ’cause he’s just great at telling them. And sometimes I ask him about certain ones, like … I was born in Africa, and when we moved, how did we actually get to America? And he’s got this great story about how he sent out a thousand applications, to be a physician at a thousand different hospitals, and finally somebody said yes. Right? And it’s true. And he’s got all these hardships around how things happened and I grew up with this. That was my first version of motivational speaking. What really comes to mind for me is the flavor that’s out there, Jim Rohn, and many of these folks, sometimes I feel like it’s a bit much for me. But my point is that this stuff is real, it really can help you. And whatever you gravitate towards, or used to, is just like a fun memory to have. So for me, my memory is more of my father and the stories he told ’cause he was my first motivational speaker that I ever heard.



Steli Efti: That’s so beautiful, that’s awesome. There’s been like a theme, maybe also because I’m moving right now, so as I’m cleaning out the house and the attic and the garage, I find old business plans that I’ve never thrown away because they are so terrible that they put a huge smile on my face. Just like, transform me back to a time when I was at a totally different place in life. And I’ve given this advice lately to people of, “A fun exercise to transform yourself to go back to a time when you were really inspired and motivated, and a different place, is to ask yourself ‘What was first book you read that really changed your mindset or really inspired or motivated you?’ And then read that book again, or at least pick it up again and take a few minutes to look through it and read a few pages and kind of transform yourself back to an earlier time.” Sometimes it’s just visiting certain places right? Visiting a school or a coffee shop where you started working on whatever, your book, your blog, your startup. Just going to certain places can transform you, meeting certain people. For me it was listening to those motivational tapes in a car with somebody who seemed to be on a quest to change his life and to listen to this programming while driving to help himself mentally. And that transformed me back to a time when I was doing that. I think that we’ve all been inspired by different thing, different flavors, different moments. It might have been a book, a person, a place. And I think finding ways to transform you back to that time can be incredibly powerful as … It does a number of things all at the same time. In one way, it fills me with gratitude, right, and appreciation. The other way it gives me real perspective on the journey I’ve taken. And not just in the absolute of where I am today, but in the greater context of the distance I’ve covered, and the places I’ve visited, and the highs and lows I’ve experienced through all of it. And then another thing happened just a few days ago. We talked about this, where … With my first startup 11 years ago when I came to Silicon Valley from Europe, the first company I was trying to raise money for I had been rejected by every single VC, I didn’t know what I was doing. And rightfully rejected by all of these people. And then there was one investor that got so excited about me, and investing in me, and that investor shall remain nameless but is actually a very successful guy, really nice guy even to this day. And I got so excited about finally making my break in Silicon Valley in finding this really important investor that would believe in me and put money in me. And then that guy, that investor only had one condition: he wanted me to talk this kid that back then, this guy that I didn’t even know and was not really famous in Silicon Valley. But there was somebody he used as an advisor and he deeply trusted him. And I remember having a meeting with that advisor of the VC, who was an ex-CTO of a successful startup. And that guy basically talked to me and then accurately assessed that it would be a bad idea to give me money. It would be a bad idea to invest in my startup. So he advised the VC not to invest in me. And it broke my heart, but I never held any grudge against that advisor, and I actually appreciated some of the advice that he gave and I thought that it was really smart and thoughtful, and with hindsight I realize that he was right. So I stayed in touch for a long period of time with that advisor and that person actually became pretty famous in Silicon Valley, eventually, or much more famous than he was back then. And it’s funny, just recently the last year or so he’s been reaching out once in a while to ask for some feedback from me. And just recently he offered me equity in his new company, and I talked to you privately about this, right? And when he sent me kind of the offer to be a formal advisor for his company … That moment where I got the email, it transformed me back to that coffee meeting I had with him, where basically he told me that I was an idiot and nobody should invest in me. And I was like “wow”. It only took 11 years to go from “Please, nobody give Steli money”, to “Steli, I need your advice, and do you want to be an advisor in my company?” It put a smile on my face just because it was such a nice little full circle experience of like, wow, I interacted with this guy 11 years ago when I first arrived. And now, such a long time later, here’s how our relationship has changed and it’s evolved over time. It was just a funny little moment. It was just a nice coming full circle experience. As I said, it only took 11 years to get there. I cherish these moments, but I’m asking myself how to create more of them, or how to make this … Some of these things will always happen organically, kind of fall into place, but I’m wondering of ways to do this, to create this more … Or more proactively, of being able back to go full circle, or go back to a time where I can remember where I’m coming from, and where I can connect to the things that really changed my life or helped me or inspired me or motivated me. That’s been kinda the theme of the last few days. I’ve been thinking about it more, I’ve been playing with it, I’ve been talking to different people about that.



Hiten Shah: Yeah, I think that you just have to take the time to remember. Sometimes it’s as simple as that and it’s beautiful when you get a trigger. Right? Those motivational, that motivational content, that Uber ride, was such a big trigger for you. And a lot of times I’m really of the belief that everything happens for a reason, right? And I think moving is a great time to reflect, so I’m super happy that you’re getting that time. We talked about this a little bit at the end of the year. People can sort of have that opportunity to reflect and things like that. I think we can do it all the time. It can really help us sort of stay grounded in where we are and realize … You know one of the most valuable things for me at least when I reflect is I realize how dumb I was back then. And how dumb I probably am today and how much further I still can go and will go. And it gives me a lot more hope in the future, so to speak, if you want to call it that, or faith. Because we all were different people, back whenever, 11 years ago, 2 years ago, a year ago. And we’re constantly changing and evolving and we often don’t remember or take the time to remind ourselves how far we’ve come. To me, that really helps drive me forward when I realize oh, okay. I can do better than I am today for sure. And then I’ll look back and really feel like I did: “Okay, let’s get to that.”



Steli Efti: I love that. I love … I wanna underline or double click both on the taking time to remember. Taking the time to remember can be beautiful thing and can be a very proactive thing. It’s something I wanna do more. And then I can’t agree more with you. I think a big part of why I love to be able to remember and connect to who I was and how different that person is from who I am today is that he inspires me and motivates me to have hope in the future, right? To be excited about the future of and saying “Wow, I can become a for myself.” And that has happened throughout my entire life. So there’s a lot more to be, and there’s a lot more to become, and there’s a lot more to grow into out of. And that can be … Especially probably when you were in Iraq, and when things had been kind of like stalling, that could be a really powerful engine to go just back long enough where you had these trigger moments that changed your life and transformed you. And then remind yourself that there’s many more of them to be created in the future. I love that. I think that’s it for this weird episode.



Hiten Shah: Yes, reflect back. That’s all you gotta do.



Steli Efti: Reflect back. And if anyone who’s been listening to us had a moment of reflection, or had a moment of going “Wow, yeah, if I think back to this – wow, what happened in me life?” If anyone has any of these moments and you want to share them with us, we’d love to hear them. We absolutely would love to hear them and probably be very inspired by that. So please feel free to reach out to and, we always love to hear from all listeners. And ’til then, we’ll hear you all very very soon.



Hiten Shah: Always. See ya.