In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about startup handicaps.

According to Steli, a startup handicap is anything that you believe gives you a disadvantage in succeeding with your startup or as an entrepreneur. And this is something that a lot of founders struggle with and prevents them from being successful with their business.

Tune in to this week’s episode to hear Steli and Hiten thoughts on what a startup handicap is, why it shouldn’t hold you back and how to overcome it.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:28 The meaning of startup handicaps.

01:23 Some examples of startup handicaps.

02:58 Why having a handicap is a mindset problem.

04:20 A way to overcome your handicap.

06:05 How having a handicap is something most people are not conscious of.

06:53 Why as a manager, your number one job is to make sure that the people you’re working with are unblocked.

07:20 Something Steli hates about the whole idea of having a handicap.

08:55 How having this kind of mindset can be detrimental.

11:20 How being an entrepreneur means pushing through handicaps.

11:57  Why you should be aware of what may be holding you back.

3 Key Points:

  • A startup handicap is anything that you believe gives you a disadvantage in succeeding with your startup or as an entrepreneur.
  • A lot of founders have limiting beliefs.
  • A lot of people who overcame their handicap did so because they believed it didn’t matter.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody this is Steli Efti.



Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. Today on the Startup Chat we’re going to talk about what we call startup handicaps. Steli, what does that mean?



Steli Efti: Well I would say anything that you would attach to yourself or your startup or team that you think makes it harder for you and your team to succeed or you and startup to succeed than your average competition or the average other person out there. So things that could fall in that category, you’re a foreigner or team of foreigners in a country, you have a strong accent, you don’t speak the language fluently. You’re broke, you don’t have money, you’re sick. You don’t have the amount of energy, and health, and time. You don’t have as much time, it’s just a side gig or whatever else your life situation is. You are unknown and don’t have a hoe to your experience. You’re too young, you’re too old. Anything that you would believe gives you a disadvantage in succeeding with your startup or as an entrepreneur.



Hiten Shah: All right, I like that. One that I’m going to throw out that might be a little offshoot is I think a lot of people and founders have limiting beliefs.



Steli Efti: Preach.



Hiten Shah: One simple one-



Steli Efti: Preach.



Hiten Shah: Yeah. One simple one is I need to raise money in order to create a company. I think that’s the one I hear more often than I feel comfortable hearing when there’s so many self-funded and some would call them boot strap companies out there that didn’t raise any money and are massive. It’s not any different than raising money in a lot of ways, although people believe it is. One other limiting belief I will say is that you need experience. That’s probably one of the biggest ones that prevents people from doing things, whether it’s starting in the first place or when they’re already there. For example, I have a company, this is a scenario, I have a company is it’s a B2B and I need to do sales but I’ve never done it before so I should go hire a salesperson because I have no experience. Well have you listened to Steli’s videos? Have you watched them? Have you seen him talk? Have you read his blog post because if you have then you wouldn’t have that limiting belief in your head. You’d be like anyone can do it. You’d learn how to do it. Anything is learnable is kind of the corollary to this idea that you need experience.



Steli Efti: I love that. I absolutely believe that this is a mindset and limited belief episode to a certain degree, right?



Hiten Shah: Yeah, I like that.



Steli Efti: There are really a few thoughts that I had when I hear this, number one, nobody gives a fuck. When I hear people’s problems on the one it’s this, and I’ve noticed this with you and probably that’s one of the many reasons why we get along so much, is that I have this mixed emotion when I hear this from somebody both of empathy and getting that people’s problems are people’s problems no matter how I feel about them. At the same time, I feel an obligation and responsibility to not take these problems seriously because if I do I am going to not be able to make them aware and empower them to crush these problems. The more serious people take certain problems, at times I find the more debilitating they are and they more they’re going to use them as excuses and explanations for their shortcomings versus as motivation to overcome and overperform. Nobody gives a fuck. Everybody has problems. Everybody has problems. You think you have bigger problems than others and I would always challenge almost anybody on that I meet there’s always somebody you can find that has overcome bigger challenges, bigger handicaps than you probably even in the same market. Now, I could just tell people, “Shut the fuck up. Nobody cares, get your shit done,” that might help some, but most people are not going to be helped by that. My next piece of advise typically is well look for proof that this doesn’t matter or this isn’t going to be a defining problem. Look for somebody that has the same handicap as you and that crushed it despite that handicap. Look for proof, like probably if you have that handicap you are encountering some soft or hard amount of proof that this handicap is making things more difficult to you. You’re going to have experiences every single day that make you believe, look, the world is really hard to me, or really unfair, or this thing that I’m lacking is really making it difficult for me. You’re going to see some stuff and explain it to yourself that that’s a reason why things aren’t going your way. Well that’s not going to help you. What you need to do is you need to look around and find the counter examples. Find the people that had as strong accent, or were as broke as you, or as sick, or as young, or as old, or inexperienced and crush it and succeed it despite these handicaps. Focus on these people both from learning from them, being inspired by them, but also changing your beliefs because a lot of people that accomplish a lot despite having massive shortcomings and handicaps did so because they believed it didn’t matter. They believed this shortcoming, this handicap, this problem I have that’s just another thing I need to fix, another thing I have to overcome. That’s not going to hold me down. That’s not going to make me fail. You want to adopt the way they think, the things they believe so you can act the way they act and generate the result they generate. Look for proof that it doesn’t matter versus zeroing in on proof day in and day out that this matters a lot and this is probably the reason why you’re not succeeding.



Hiten Shah: Yeah, wow. This is so powerful, right? It’s something like this whole idea it’s something that most people are not conscious to. They’re not necessarily conscious to actually what’s causing this for them, what’s causing them to have these handicaps. For me, I think the biggest thing that I look for even in myself is what’s actually blocking me. As a manager, as much as a lot of people don’t like the word, many of us are managers. I’m sure there’s a bunch of managers listening, whether you identify with that or not. Your number one job is to make sure that the people you’re working with are unblocked, whether it’s professionally, personally, anything. That’s your job, in my opinion. I’m sure there’s some episode we talked about this or one we’ll do in the future Steli, but unblocking people is your number one job. Well have you ever thought about what’s blocking you and how to unblock yourself, especially if no one’s managing you? You’ve probably never asked yourself that. I think one of the most powerful things to find your handicaps is to do that.



Steli Efti: I love that. Oh man, I don’t know where to go with this other than maybe if you feel like you have a handicap. If you feel like you have a legitimate reason or shortcoming that makes it … I don’t know, maybe what I had about this handicap thing is this feeling of a lot of times I sense an underlying feeling of injustice, there’s a certain level of victim hood in that type of thinking where you’re like this is unfair. I’m sure if I didn’t have X, Y, Z things would be easier for me and I deserve easier. Why do other people have it easier and I don’t? There’s a certain level of being a victim and a certain level of hurt at times that I detect. By myself it’s not that … I’ve been free my entire life of thinking this way. I’ve had probably moments where I was whining and being a victim, but also many times when people come to me with this and they’re like we want to accomplish X, Y, Z, but just like your example earlier we just don’t have enough funding to do the things we know how to do. If we had the money we could change the world. We could build this amazing thing or we could reach success, whatever that means. The underlying tone is one of I’m a victim of my circumstances, and it’s unfair, and I feel a little hurt. If the world could just be a little bit more just, and fair, and equal then things would go better for me. A, on a human level it hurts that you’re hurting. I want to hug you. It sucks when you’re hurt as a human, but on a practical level I’m like that’s such a tough belief to hold onto and at the same time, have any reasonable expectation or hope of success. You can do either one, but you can’t believe that things are unjust and the world is unfair to you and at the same time, attack the world with an energy, and a passion, and a vigor, the type of energy you need to make changes happen, to overcome challenges. I think realize that the world isn’t supposed to be fair and things aren’t supposed to be easy. Our entire lives are just an unlimited stringing of struggles of sorts. The better you get at overcoming these struggles, and fixing these problems, and pushing through these barriers the happier or more accomplished, or successful you’re going to be in life. Being an entrepreneur and starting a startup by definition means pushing through handicaps, and pushing through shortcomings, and lack of resources, and fixing problems, and dealing with “unfair” circumstances because you’re always going to go against some bigger company or the way of things that have always been this way that are going to be hard. You are a change maker and change is tough. I don’t know, I feel like that level of hurt and that feeling of injustice makes people feel depressed and powerless. It’s impossible out of those emotions, and feelings, and states to really take the action and do the work that’s needed to accomplish your goals.



Hiten Shah: Yep, if you have goals and things are holding you back you should know what they are. It’s funny, there’s this ambulance going by as I say that. I think you took it to a good place. I think people really need to hear that they don’t need to be handicapped by anything and things aren’t bad, and nobody’s out to get you. But you’re most likely just causing yourself more stress than you need to. If you can just think of it more objectively and think about what’s actually holding you back, and what are the handicaps in your life that you don’t need to have, I think that can be a really meaningful exercise. Again, I don’t see founders doing this. A lot of times I see a lot of the advice I give and that you give related to someone’s handicap because they’re asking a question that they already know the answer to, for example. They’re just blocked because they don’t know how to think about it. The funny thing is, this wasn’t one I expected to turn into this, but most of the advice you and I give on these podcasts and when we talk about these things it ends up being all about how do you get better. It ends up being how do you get passed your own shit. My advice is just to figure out what your shit is, otherwise you won’t get passed it.



Steli Efti: Amen. All right brother, that’s it from us for this episode.



Hiten Shah: Later.