In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about changing your mind about something.

A lot of people see changing your mind as a sign of weakness, however, this is not always the case. Often times decisions are made in the startup world, however, there are times when you may want to change your mind about something. Doing so in the right way and at the right time can be the difference between failure and success.

Tune in to this week’s episode to hear Steli and Hiten thoughts on when and how to change your mind on something and how to do this the right way.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:28 How founders not changing their minds about something is a major reason why a lot of startups fail.

01:41 Why strong opinions are not loosely held.

02:42 How to loosely hold strong opinions.

03:24 One of Steli’s main drivers of personal happiness.

04:33 Examples of a good way to change your mind.

06:07 One of Steli’s favorite experiences.

07:06 How being open-minded about certain things can sometimes be difficult.

08:13 How often Hiten changes his mind.

10:04 How Steli deals with times when he’s wrong about things.

11:23  Hiten’s approach to managing a team and decision making.

3 Key Points:

  • There are experiments I do that prove that my strong opinion is wrong.
  • Strong opinions are not loosely held.
  • Changing my mind is an indicator that I am growing as a person.


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



Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.



Steli Efti: Today on The Startup Chat, we’re going to talk about changing your mind. This is the concept of when and how should you change your mind or your opinion about something as a founder. How do you get better at learning to change, especially changing your mind, which is probably the first step in change of everything. And that to a large degree, when we talk about startups that fail, we always go back to they fail because they didn’t change. They didn’t learn fast enough. What does learn fast enough mean? To a certain degree, it means changing your hypothesis or changing the direction of your company or changing your execution or changing something, your idea or whatever. It means that you didn’t change either enough or you didn’t change when it mattered. So I think that’s a fascinating episode to talk about, especially from my perspective in terms of how and when do we change our mind? When was the last time we’ve changed our mind, and how do we work on this, at getting better at this, etc., etc? I know that we had a prior episode when this popped up, and I’m dying to dive into this in more detail and unpack this.



Hiten Shah: Yeah. I’ve always loved the quote and loved people who have strong opinions that are loosely held. I really love … Personally, it’s one of the things that I really live by. It’s such a powerful thing to me, and I think it’s one of the hardest things to do in life, because especially when you’re really driven to succeed or do things, because this idea that you have these strong opinions. By nature of those words, strong opinions means they’re not loosely held. You have to hold them tight. You have to be like, “Hey, this is it. This is what I’m doing or this is what matters. This is what’s important.” A lot of times, when you’re a manager or you’re a founder, you’re a leader in the company, or even personally, you have to go make that a reality. Anything. You want to get better at your job, even if you have a job, you have to make that a reality. That takes having a strong opinion about yourself or what you need to achieve or whatever. How do you loosely hold those strong opinions? I think there’s a simple trick, which is I might have this opinion today, but I am willing to change if there are facts or there are experiences or there are experiments that I do that prove that my strong opinion is wrong. That’s the way I think about just how I like to live and not get stuck or held up by these opinions I have that might be holding me back. That really is what relates to willingness to change. At least that’s my starting point to discuss with you this topic from my end. I’m curious how you do it in terms of change.



Steli Efti: I think one of the main drivers of personal happiness that I’ve come to understand about myself is the feeling that I’ve grown. The feeling that I’ve grown as a person. And grown, to me, one of the best indicators that I have grown as a human being is usually, sometimes it’s making new experiences or making life expanding experiences. That’s one part of it, but the other part of it is changing my mind or expanding how I think about things. One exercise that I’ve been doing for a number of years now. I’ve always known this, but I’ve never really tracked this in any meaningful way. One exercise that I started over the last few years was that during the end of the year, New Year’s period of time, one thing that I typically sit down and do is I try to look back at what I was doing and who I was a year ago. I ask myself if there’s anything that I thought or that I did a year ago that today I think is totally dumb or completely wrong. If I can’t come up with a good list, that is usually a bad sign. That usually scares me. That means that if I think still that the things that I was doing and the way that I was acting and thinking two years or three years ago is totally on point and awesome today, to me that means I haven’t grown. I haven’t changed enough. I have to tell you. Last year, one of the main reasons, at the end of the year, although a lot of things went really well in my life … In general, so many things go so well in my life. Last year, I felt a little unhappy at the end of the year and to a large degree, I feel like I didn’t change enough. I didn’t learn enough. I didn’t grow enough. I still was holding on to a lot of my shit. One of the reasons why this year, although it’s been a wild year and a challenging year in many awesome ways, one of the reasons why this year I feel much better already or much more happy is that I have changed my mind about a bunch of things. In a weird way, changing my mind is an indicator for me that I’m growing. Now, one thing that’s challenging or one thing that I’m particularly interested to talk to you about is that a lot of times … I’ll give you an example. A lot of times, I tell people, and I mean it, that one of the greatest things for me is working with people that will attempt to do something I think is wrong or dumb and then prove that they were right. That was one of my favorite experiences when working with people is when I tell somebody, “This won’t work,” and they go and they do it and it worked. I love that. I absolutely … This is my favorite. The few moments where I’m beaming of life and excitement when that happens. I have zero ego about it, and I won’t spend a second talking about, “I told you not to do this.” The moment you prove me wrong, I’m like that second I adopted your way of thinking, and I’m championing that. I love that. But one thing that I’ve noticed is that at times, especially in areas where let’s take sales. Sales is a good example. Sales is an area that I’m very, very experienced in and I’m pretty skilled at. Every week, I get so much data about it, and I learn so many things, and I hear so many things and I see so many things. In certain areas where I’m really knowledgeable, it’s harder and harder to come by these, “Oh, my God. I was totally wrong about XYZ.” At least it’s harder for me to … I don’t know. To maybe be more open-minded about seeing that I was wrong or it’s not as obvious, but it’s harder for me to come by these moments where somebody proves me wrong or I prove myself wrong. My hack or my thinking on this, and I’m curious to hear your thoughts. My hack and my thinking of this is that I probably have to put myself in more challenging situations or I probably need to bring in more experienced people, more talented people that can easier disprove my theories. It’s all about the people I surround myself. That level needs to continue going up more and more dramatically for me to be stimulated to change and to see that I was wrong faster, because 10 years ago, I was seeing that I was wrong and changing my mind quite frequently. Today, with more success, more seniority, more experience, it doesn’t happen as frequently if I don’t work really hard at it. I’m curious to hear your point on that. You’re somebody that a lot of people admire, somebody that has incredible wisdom, not just good looks. How often does it happen that you change your mind? What is the design that you created in your startup and your team with your co-founder to make sure that that really happens and it happens as fast as possible and you’re not slowing it down for whatever reason?



Hiten Shah: We assume we’re wrong. We just assume we’re wrong. Even when you say what you said, which this is one of those points where it’s like I love the way you think about someone on your team doing something you disagree with and then it being right. I feel like that holds you back. The reason I say that is on the one hand, I get why you say it. You’re basically saying that your team has the okay from you to do things you disagree with. I love that, but then you’re also saying that you disagree with it. To me, that means that there might be a flaw in how you’re able to execute as a result of that thinking. Imagine if instead you had an outcome that that team member was responsible for, and you let go of every opinion you have about how that outcome gets achieved, except that that outcome needs to be achieved. The reason I say that, and I’m really curious to hit on that first, is mainly because I want to know why you think you need to be so negative and you need to disagree with things, because I think there’s a lot underneath that. I’m not saying you’re wrong in doing that. I’m really curious how that drives you and your team.



Steli Efti: That’s a really good point. I come back to remembering one of my favorite quotes of George Soros, who was asked once, I think at a Google author event, how he’s been so successful and so right about so many things when it comes to investing and all that. He said, “I just know I’m wrong all the time about everything, and all I do is I constantly try to be a little less wrong about things.” I love that. The honest truth is that I don’t live that, because you’re right. I’ll have a conversation with somebody. When they come to me and they ask for advice … I’m not a super hands on manager, but when they come to me and they say, “Okay. Here’s the goal that we’re trying to accomplish. Here’s my three ways of how I’m trying to accomplish this goal,” I will have opinion on these, sometimes strong, sometimes not so strong. I’ll always share my opinions and then tell them that it’s their ultimate responsibility to go and do whatever they want to. They’re responsible for the outcome, so I’m with you on that. But inside of me, I believe that I’m right. My base assumption when I talk to people is not, especially in certain areas where I feel confident, it’s not that I’m probably wrong. It’s that I’m probably more likely right. I don’t know how to change that. Philosophically I totally subscribe to that philosophy, but I honestly don’t live it. I’m not sure what to do and how to do to switch that and think totally differently on that.



Hiten Shah: Love it. That’s really valuable to understand where you’re coming from. My approach on people on the team is a little different. Maybe it’s just from giving a ton of advice and then realizing that this whole theory of you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink it. To me, I’m not trying to make anyone drink any water, even if I know where it is and I know they should drink it. Instead, I’m trying to help them see how to get to the water themselves. When someone comes to me and says, “Obviously this is the outcome. Here’s the three ways that I think we can get to the outcome, and I just want your advice,” my advice to them would be, “Okay. I’m not going to give you an opinion on those three ways and specifically on any of them. I’m going to help you figure hot how can you evaluate for yourself which is the right one to start with or how do you get to the right answer?” All you’re trying to do is get to the best answer. Not even the right answer. Best answer. So I’m going to assume that even though I have an opinion on those three, my opinion is not even just wrong. It’s irrelevant. What’s more relevant is this person learning how to get the answer to that question so they never have to fucking ask me again. What I find in organizations is that people don’t build up that ability in themselves to be able to find an answer the way the culture, the way the founders, would like them to or would do themselves. I just want to tell you how to find the water. I don’t even want to tell you how to get to the water. I want to tell you how to find the water, because you will drink it if you find it yourself. If I tell you where it is and show you how to get there, you might not drink it, because it’s not your … You didn’t do it. So that extreme ownership is probably what I would go for. That’s where I come up with this concept and this idea that I’m wrong. But it’s not even that I’m wrong. It’s that I’m irrelevant. My opinion is irrelevant. Someone else’s ability to find the right answer is so much more important to me than my answer.



Steli Efti: I love that. It’s not that I’ve never heard this before, but it’s one of those things that I don’t live yet fully. Here’s a chance-



Hiten Shah: It’s hard.



Steli Efti: Yeah. Here’s a chance-



Hiten Shah: We all have opinions.



Steli Efti: Here’s a chance to grow and to change behavior, not just mindset. This is such an important thing, but it’s been something that I’ve been agreeing with for a long time, but I think I’ve been failing at in various degrees for a long time. This conversation might be an interesting start.



Hiten Shah: I don’t want to pick on you. The one thing that my strategy is when I hear people, when I hear organizations on how they operate is are they coming from a place of negativity? When you say, even the idea that I might be wrong or that I’m assuming I’m wrong, I know I said that that’s how I do it, but that’s just the starting point. I think irrelevance of my opinion is actually what I’m going for. It’s not even irrelevant. It’s more of a core, deep understanding that people need to find their own way to answers, and I can teach them how to get to the answer. I should not be giving them the answer. They should not think. Again, this is the hardest thing, too. They should not think I have the right answer, because that’s detrimental to an organization’s scaling and people being able to make the kind of decisions you would make in your organization if you are the founder or a manager. You’re not even necessarily looking for them to make the kind of decision you would make. You’re looking for them to make the right goddamn decision for the business. The right one. The best one. The best one in this moment. The best one right now. Actually, it’s the best one right now. This is probably the best way to say it. It has right and best in it. Perfect. The best decision right now is what I need you to make. In my head, I go like, “How the heck am I going to help you make the best decision for right now?” I think that this is one of the hardest things to create when you think about this whole idea and this concept of making sure that you’re developing people and making sure that you’re willing to change.



Steli Efti: I fucking love it. I want to put a nice bow on this and wrap this episode up. Those are super wise words and I think a ton of inspiration and stimulation for people to change what they’re doing. This is a very typical startup founder journey, I’ve found. I think that in the beginning, it’s like being the all-knowing source of truth and solutions, and then it’s the in the beginning, that’s what’s awesome and empowering, and then that’s what’s holding the company back from growing to all it can be. You turn from the enabling factor of your startup to the disabling factor of it. I think that founders that are able to make that switch and make it fully are the ones that succeed most or have the biggest impact, which is what we are all or most of us are in it for. All right. Changing our minds. This is probably one of the most important things to work on as a human being is the way we deal with change, and how good we are in changing I think are super under … Those are things we know are probably valuable, but there’s not a lot of real discourse, real advice. There’s not a lot of examination and working, really working on it versus just agreeing with it in theory. I love it.



Hiten Shah: I know change is constant. I live every moment as if it’s changing, and every day … I know you mentioned about a year and this and that. Every day I want to feel like I changed. Every day I want to feel like I changed my opinion about something, and not just one thing, but so many things. I think that that idea of thinking about thinking, thinking about change and figuring out what do you need to change is really powerful. It’s really about what do you need to change, personally, organizationally, all those things. For me, I think the reason I’m really passionate about this topic is it’s a really core part of life. Change is constant, which means you have to change. Change is constant, which means you need to identify what’s worth changing and what’s not in every moment almost. The better you get at that, the more likely you are to get to your goals and meet them and beat them.



Steli Efti: Amen, brother. All right. That’s it from us for this episode, everybody. Don’t tell us we’re not giving you everything we’ve got. All right.



Hiten Shah: We are giving you everything we’ve got, for sure. Definitely.



Steli Efti: Well, we’re looking forward to hear about your change. We always love to hear from you. Shoot us an email., Especially when you have just changed or are about to change. We love those moments. We’ll continue to share our journey with everybody that’s listening. Until next time, that’s it from us.



Hiten Shah: Take care.