In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk the idea of wanting to be an entrepreneur because you don’t want to work for other people.

This comes after Steli spoke at an event for students about career hacks. Steli points out that the whole idea of working for yourself is an illusion as being an entrepreneur means that you not only work for your customers, you work for your staff, and even worse, you work for yourself – probably the worst boss in the world.

Tune into this week’s episode of The Startup Chat to hear Steli and Hiten’s point of view on the subject and highlight issues that can come up when you’re an entrepreneur.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:39 Why this topic was chosen.

01:29 One of the questions that Steli asked at the event.

02:33 Why being an entrepreneur means that you’re also working for other people.

03:51 Hiten points out that everybody works for themselves.

04:46 Why we are all our own bosses.

05:01 The right mindset to have.

06:50 Why believing that you can’t work for other people is a wrong mindset to have.

07:40 Why you should choose the part that works best for you.

09:02  Why it’s ok to have a job.

3 Key Points:

  • If you want that ultimate feeling of being your own boss, then start your own thing.
  • Everybody works for themselves.
  • I’m here on this planet to improve myself.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.



Hiten Shah: Okay, and this Hiten Shah.



Steli Efti: Today, on the Startup Chat, I want to talk about this concept of not working for other people when you’re an entrepreneur. So here’s the deal, Hiten. I spoke at an event the other day, and this was a bit of a different event that I typically speak at. It was run by very good friends of mine, that’s why I stopped by to do this. Because the majority of the audience were actually students in their final year or so of study. But it was an event about career hacks, so a bunch of people that were quote-unquote successful came to speak about their career and what young people could learn from it. And I was like, “What the fuck do I do here? I never had a job or a career, and probably everything I’ll tell you is going to make these young people that want to go out there in the world and have these amazing jobs in large companies, probably make bad choices.” So one of the things that came out of that talk that really made me think and made me want to talk to you about, was that at some point … I was at the beginning of my talk just to understand the audience better. I asked the audience … I queried the audience on a bunch of things. So I’d ask for age and people had to raise their hand. I asked for interests. I wanted just to understand better who was in the room. And one of the questions that I asked, poorly formulated probably was, “Who here wants to work for other people,” right, versus wanting to work for themselves. And a bunch of people raised their hand and whatever. And then the first person that asked me a question was, she said, “Hey Steli, in the beginning you asked who wants to work for other people. I raised my hand, but I kind of felt bad about it, because I thought that you probably judge this. You know, you’ve been an entrepreneur your whole life. You’re a founder, you’re so successful. And so you look at me as somebody that just wants to get a great job and work for somebody else, and you look down on that. I sort of felt conflicted. So what is your opinion on people that want to work, have a real job, and work somewhere else? Do you think these people are not as ambitious? Would you advise me like to maybe change my mindset? Maybe this is limited thinking, and I should only want to work for myself.” I was shocked about the question and grateful that she asked it, because that was not really my intention. So, I talked a little bit about it being phrased poorly, but also the point that it doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur or not, you always work for other people, right? Like just because you’re the founder and CEO doesn’t mean that you don’t have a boss. It just means everybody’s your boss. It means that all your employees are people you work for, all your customers are people you work for. You probably have even on top of it the worse boss in the world, which is yourself in many, many regards. So no matter if you’re an entrepreneur, or no matter if you are working for the public sector or work for the private sector, you’re always going to have to work for somebody and with other people, right? It doesn’t really matter. And then it reminded me that there are a lot of entrepreneurs I know and founder friends I have that will brag, “I could never work for somebody else. I never want to work for anybody else than myself.” And I’m like, “That’s kind of like bragging that, ‘I would never have sex with somebody else, I only make love to myself.'” That’s not that great of a philosophy to have. So I don’t know, I wanted to talk about this and unpack this a little bit more, this idea of wanting to be an entrepreneur or a founder, because you don’t want to work for quote-unquote, the man, or don’t want to work for anybody else, or think you can’t work for other people. Let’s talk about this, and if it’s right or wrong. I happen to think that it’s a little bit of a distorted reality and not really true, at least not if you’re successful or want to be successful and valuable.



Hiten Shah: Oh man, I’m going to start by saying the key point I think you made for me about this is, “Everybody works for themselves.” And I think we all get it twisted. Founders get it twisted, team members in companies get it twisted. Freelancers get it twisted. I love that you said, “Hey we all have a boss,” right? And I think a lot of people like to hear that. They like to feel like a founder isn’t special in the sense of like … On one hand, anyone could do it. On the other hand, not everyone should do it. So I don’t think you’re wrong. I used to say things like what you said. I really did. I used to say, “Hey, I have lots of bosses or ” You know what, though? We’re all our own bosses. I think that that realization will just change the way you think about whether you’re an employee, so to speak, a freelancer, work for yourself in some way, or a founder. What I mean by that is like, there’s a mindset that people should have. That this is what I believe. The mindset should be that I’m here. Get real like woo woo, I’m here on this planet, right, to work on myself and improve myself. It doesn’t matter how I do that. For some of us, being founders is the best way we can do that. For other people, being part of a company is the best way they can do that, but not the founder. Right? There are some people that don’t want that stress of being a founder, and my opinion? I don’t look down on anybody. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what you’re doing as long as you’re looking to improve yourself, I’m good . And honestly, even though it might not look like they are, they are. They’re here. They’re alive, they’re looking to improve themselves, all right? So, I don’t know, I know I took it to another place-



Steli Efti: No, I love-



Hiten Shah: … But to me like, I feel like it’s … Yeah.



Steli Efti: I love that.



Hiten Shah: Go ahead.



Steli Efti: That’s why I like to talking to you, asshole, right? Because I’ll frame something-



Hiten Shah: Yeah.



Steli Efti: I’ll frame something in one way, and you’ll turn it around. And now, now it went from having one dimension to having many, right?



Hiten Shah: Yeah.



Steli Efti: Because I honestly, for me it was a little bit about encouraging people, like telling people, “Hey, a founder, an entrepreneur is not better than you.” But it was also … I think more importantly, who I had in mind emotionally were the douche bag founders I know that think they are better, because they would never work for somebody else. And I’m like, “You’re not better than them.” But what you did, which is more beautiful in my mind, is like you turned it around and instead of like, “We all work for somebody,” you made it, “We all work for ourselves,” which is a much more empowering way of thinking about it. So I fucking love that. I love that you take things and you put them another way.



Hiten Shah: Even that douche bag founder needs to believe that they can’t work for anyone else. If you want to empathize with them, they need to believe that. You know why they need to believe that? They need to believe that they have no other option. They need to believe that the alternative to what they’re doing today does not exist for them. So they’re just saying that, because they don’t want that alternative to exist for them. And they’re saying it out of being scared of that alternative. And it takes a while for you to get out of that, if you’re now a founder all of a sudden, right? It takes a while for you to get out of having that cushion, having that feeling that I can just go do that. Right? Many people started like that, and they worked at a job, and then they decided to start their own company. And now they realize that they never should have worked for anyone, right? Some of us, though, are like, “Fuck, I don’t know if I could work for anyone, I really don’t.” That being said, I’m sure I could, and I’m sure I’d be great at it. But I think a lot of those people just say that ’cause it’s the fear. And it’s the fear of that being a possibility, when like in reality you don’t need to fear that. If you’re meant to work on your own shit as a founder, freelancer, or whatever and have that responsibility for yourself, then do that. If you’re not, and you’re not gravitating towards it, and you want a little more stability, a little more of your life so to speak, in many areas, not just work so to speak, then guess what? Don’t do that. So I would tell people actually, I would discourage them to be a founder. It’s not because they can’t do it, it’s because I’m not sure if they know what it means. I’d rather talk about what it means. And it means this almost ultimate realization of you being your own boss. So that would be the way I would go further and expand on what I said, which is like, if you want that ultimate feeling of being your own boss, so to speak, and like literally owning that, I think being a founder is how you’d get that. ‘Cause you’re just … I mean, the thing is a struggle. You have to manage yourself. You’re not managing anyone else. You’re not, like you’re not sitting there being managed either. You have to manage yourself and everything comes out of that. That’s the reality, and so no, I don’t wish it upon anybody, I don’t think anyone should do it, to be honest. I think it’s much easier to have a job. I think it’s okay that it’s much easier. It’s okay if you want a job. Like that’s okay, that’s good. We need you, too. We need you, because you’re probably way more emotionally stable than any founder out there.



Steli Efti: Yeah, probably have much less of like whatever deficiencies maybe founders have, that they’re trying to overcompensate for by changing the world and building incredible solutions. I love that. Like we could take this to so many other different places, but I kind of don’t want to. I feel like what you just said and how you wrapped this up was a really beautiful, deep, and empowering and honest little message to send out there in the world. So I kind of just want to wrap this up in a red ribbon and send this episode off to the world.



Hiten Shah: Let’s do it. How do we wrap it up?



Steli Efti: We just say-



Hiten Shah: It’s good. I get it.



Steli Efti: We just-



Hiten Shah: You brought up a good topic. Shit.



Steli Efti: There you go, we just say thank you for listening. And as always, we’re always happy to get a five-star review on iTunes from you. We always love to hear from you if you want to work for somebody, work for yourself. If you want to talk, if something you heard Hiten or me talk about this episode touched you or made you think about something you want to share, we want to hear from you. We love every email we get, and we get many. Just send us an email,, ‘Til the next episode.