Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about if it’s necessary to sacrifice your life and your health in the early days of building your startup.

In the startup world, creating a healthy balance between work and play is absolutely essential when it comes to leading a happy and productive lifestyle. But achieving this is not always easy – especially if you’re at the early stages of your startup.

In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten share their thoughts on the importance of having a healthy work-life balance, why you should do whatever you can to make your business successful, the importance of knowing when to take a step back from hustling and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:32 About today’s topic

00:40 Why this topic was chosen.

03:01 Hiten’s thoughts on this topic.

05:14 Why you should do whatever you can to make your business successful.

06:40 Why it should be called work-life harmony

07:43 The importance of knowing when to take a step back from hustling

09:17 Why there’s no such thing as the right way to be successful.

12:16 Steli’s take on the idea of hustle porn.

14:44 Hiten’s take on the idea of hustle porn

3 Key Points:

  • There are so many founders out there that can’t handle the stress of being a founder.
  • You should do whatever you can to make your business successful.
  • If you’re emotionally and spiritually burned out, maybe this isn’t for you.



Steli Efti: Hi everybody this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.


Steli Efti: And today on the StartUp Chat I want to talk about, do you really have to sacrifice your life and health in the early days as a founder or is that bullshit. So, here’s the reason why I want to talk to you about this, I think throughout the episodes we’ve always aired on the side of working smarter not harder, people don’t have to sacrifice their health, and their family, and their emotions to be successful as entrepreneurs. We’re always attacking this myth that you have to burn yourself out to succeed. But then recently, I saw a discussion online that I thought, this is actually interesting and probably thought provoking and an interesting topic for us to digest where one specific founder, I’m not going to call him out by name, that has done a successful company and is now in a later stage in his life with wife, and kids and an investor and is advocating a lot doing a lot of press around this hustle culture is toxic, and working too many hours is toxic, and not working out, and not eating healthy is toxic, and entrepreneurs really need to have good work life balance. And so working too much and focusing only on work isn’t the right way. And I thought at first glance when I was just seeing the headlines of these podcast interviews and articles, I was like, sure. And then I started seeing a really strong counter reaction, and I started reading those comments and tweets and basically, I’ll summarize it, basically a bunch of founders, younger founders, but also some older ones are calling bullshit on this. And were basically saying, “Yeah, motherfucker when you started, your first startup, I mean you were nobody, and you had no resources, you had no success, you want to tell us that you were doing eight hours a day off, six hours a day, and weekends off, and going to the gym every day, and eating super healthy, and having friends, and traveling, and taking vacations? No you didn’t. You were working all day seven days a week hustling your ass off to make that first company succeed and now that you have the momentum of success, and recognition, and money, and fame in your much later stage in your life and a different stage in your life, now you’re all about eating healthy, and working out, and spending time with your kids, but young or early founders they can’t afford that work life balance if they really want to succeed. It was funny to see that I thought, all right, this is a great [crosstalk]


Hiten Shah: What a great topic.


Steli Efti: What a great topic for the two of us do to digested poke holes into it and look at. So, I’m dying to hear your first response or the first thought on this.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, I’m dying to hear what you think. I think, oh my god, much respect to everybody on both sides first of all. One for that gentleman being very successful I guess and being able to have a audience, and an ability to say whatever he feels. And then all those people jumped on him, you know what, I’m glad they did not because I have an opinion here but my opinion is pretty simple, look, if you’re running a business, just like if you ran a coffee shop, or if you run a coffee shop and you’re listening to this and it’s not an online business, you’re going to do whatever it takes to make that business successful or guess what that business will probably fail. And if what it takes is hustling, as the traditional term calls it, then you’re going to hustle. And if whatever it takes doesn’t require you to hustle in that way, you ain’t going to hustle. I mean, what why is this so complicated? Why do we need to give people advice either way? Why don’t we just let people do what they think is right and see what happens? The reason I say that is back in the day, and I’m going to age myself this way, but you remember this too, nobody talked about this crap. And you know why they’re talking about it in all seriousness, it’s because there are so many founders out there that maybe just can’t handle the stress of being a founder. That’s what it boils down to, to be honest, and/or haven’t figured out how to deal with the stress and there are unfortunate things that have happened as a result. And I think that’s why this is a topic not because some people should, or not because everyone should not be hustling. No. Not because that founder didn’t hustle in the early days, I am sure that’s another hustled in the early days, we both know that, right. Everyone knows that, he did. And so I think it’s more of calling him a hypocrite is what’s going on right now. But let’s not focus on that because it doesn’t matter. What matters is, what is the right advice here? I truly believe the right advice is, you should do whatever you can to make your business successful. And yeah, if you can find a way to have a work life balance, as they call it, which doesn’t even make any sense, you know what I call it, I call it a work life harmony.


Steli Efti: Harmony, I love it.


Hiten Shah: Right? That’s what we want here. And that might mean that your significant other, or your family, or your kids, whatever, understand what you’re doing. And what that means is you might not come home for dinner every day but they understand what you’re doing. And then when you are home you are present, that’s important, right? Or when you’re with your girlfriend, if that’s the stage of life you’re in, or boyfriend, or whatever significant other your present to them. You’re not just talking about work all the time. Yes, those things are very healthy but has nothing to do with hustle or no hustle to me.


Steli Efti: I love it. I love the word harmony replacing the word balance because balance suggests that both things are equally weighted and invested all times. You’re doing 50/50 on everything at the same way versus saying that both these things, sometimes maybe your work and life is the same thing as well, it’s a whole other topic, right. So when you’re at work What is this death? Life at work too but when it comes to your personal life maybe that takes on a dominance in your life at some point and is in harmony with running your company or doing work and at some point the work might take a more dominant part of your day or life and if you do it well it can be in harmony with your family life. I love harmony much more than balance because balance suggest that you do the same thing in both your private life and work life and you divide everything by half, right?


Hiten Shah: It also suggests an imbalance.


Steli Efti: Yeah. By default it suggest that there is an imbalance, you’re right, yeah. Yeah, that’s interesting. So, I think that there’s a lot of things to talk back here. I think one thing for sure is that when you look at people that give advice, right, I think that you have to ask yourself two questions, is this useful or helpful to me right now, right? And I think sometimes if you’re struggling with your health, if you’re struggling with concentration and focus, if you’re struggling with productivity, you might have to take a step back and when somebody comes across your attention span that says, “Maybe you should take a little bit more of a break, maybe you should meditate more, maybe you can’t just do 20 hours seven days a week of in front of your laptop and doing things that are unproductive but feel like work. Maybe that’s the right message, the right piece of advice for you at that moment that makes you go, oh, maybe I need to change a little bit the way I work and live to accomplish more, and to feel better, and to have more longevity in this. But the same piece of advice could be an excuse, right, which is the not handling stress well. The same thing can be you don’t have that work life harmony or balance issue, what you have is you don’t really want to work hard, or you want things to be easy, or you’re not that committed to the company, so now you’re looking for excuses, right. You’re looking for rationalizations why things aren’t working as well. And you’re like, you know what I think is going on, I’ve been doing this for two weeks, and I’ve been working so hard, I think I’m burned out maybe I have depression, maybe I have anxiety, maybe what I need is a meditation retreat. And it’s like, maybe what you need is not to be doing a startup, right? If after two weeks you’re emotionally and spiritually burnout, maybe this isn’t for you, right? So, I think that these things with context matters so much and we always highlight that importance I know. Some people are annoyed because they just want simple answers like, what is the right way to live life or to be successful in business for everybody, right? Just give me the answer and then I can just follow that that blueprint, but the reality is that it really depends who you are, where you want, what you’re trying to do. And similarly, when somebody gives advice the context of, where does this person come from? What is their limited life experience and overgeneralization that has got them to this? And what is the stage in life they’re in right now? I think it’s an important one. So, it’s funny, I lean back and I look at these arguments between the people that advocate hustling, right. There’s a lot of, you have to hustle, and that was more popular I would say two or three years ago there’s still some voices that are really pushing hard, but now there’s a big counter reaction and it’s actually really trendy to be totally against the quote unquote hustle, right? And be like, all these hustle people are bullshit, all these work hard people are bullshit, what you need is work life balance. As if work life balance is going to make you successful as an entrepreneur. Working more hours isn’t necessarily the solution or the answer to failure or success, and working less hours and doing more yoga isn’t the answer to being successful and succeeding with your startup either, it’s neither of these two things, but it’s funny to see these trends. And right now, I see a very strong counter reaction where a lot of founders, a lot of VCs, a lot of writers, and people that have a big stage will counteract the message of working hard, and hustling, and pushing further at work than in other things and doing anything necessary to make your company successful. Pushing against that message and going, hey, mental health is really important, physical health is really important, family Life is really important. You need to keep a balance from day one. Even if they didn’t do that in the early days. So it’s just fascinating. I think most people when they approached me about this topic, they just assume that I’m going to be firmly in the hustle camp, right? People that have been listening to the podcast for a long time might assume that I’m firmly in the work life harmony camp. But as oftentimes, it depends, I don’t know, it depends on who you are, what your life is all about, and what you’re trying to do. And it’s also fine to have, as you said, to have a phase where you might work much harder and everything else takes a backseat to work for you to succeed with what you’re trying to do. And then once you’ve gotten to a certain level, other things in your life might take a front seat again and take on more importance, and take on more focus and more energy. It’s unrealistic to expect people from day one in their life to do everything with equal weight, equal attention, equal energy, but it’s just unrealistic. All right, I think that’s it for us for this episode. What do you think Hiten.


Hiten Shah: I wanted to mention this idea of hustle porn, which you kind of touched on.


Steli Efti: Oh, yeah.


Hiten Shah: Before we’re done, we haven’t talked about it. So, what’s your whole take on this idea because there are definitely some people out there that I think have been advocating hustling and now there’s actually a backlash, like you said, what’s your take on that?


Steli Efti: I don’t know. I’m definitely conflicted. Again, I think it depends on who receives the message. I do think that there are certain people that scream all day long how hard they are hustling and that hustle and hard work and working many, many hours and sacrificing everything that, that is the ticket to success in life. And so everything they screams all day long it’s them working hard, them waking up at 4:00 AM, them going to sleep at 2:00 AM in the morning, them just working, working. And so that’s what you call hustle point. I think that when you look at the audience, these people touch a hustle porn audience. I think that there’s a small part of that audience that probably gets real motivation out of it. And positive motivation that get inspired that it puts a smile on their face. It’s something that really fuels them. They see that and they’re like, yes, that’s awesome, that’s amazing, it’s a positive emotion, a positive motivation and inspiration and it helps them to have more fun at work, or to take more pride in the work they do, or to have something inspirational to work towards to. And I think for those people that works, hustle porn is good for them. I think that there’s a majority of people that probably consumed hustle porn where it’s actually bad for them, right. I think that instead of it being something that truly inspires them in a positive way it is something that they use to either guilt themselves to feel like they’re lacking something, oh, shit look this person is doing so much more than me. So they are either going to use that as a way to rationalize why they’re not successful as somebody else or this person just is hustling so much harder than me I’ll never have that energy, I’ll never have that drive, I’ll never have that drive, I’ll never have that commitment, or they take it as a blueprint where they now think if I just add more hours in front of a laptop and if I take more pictures of myself looking tired and exhausted and hashtag it with hustling, that will be my ticket to succeed with my startup of my company, which is a very bad idea. Just adding more hours in your day is not going to do anything to either your success or your failure if you don’t do the right things in those hours. So, I think that, to be honest, for some people, I think hustle porn can be a positive force. For some people, probably it doesn’t really matter. But I do think that there’s a good portion of the audience that’s consuming that where it’s not helping them accomplish their goals, it’s not helping them live a better life. So net, net I’m oblivious to it but if I had to decide I would think that in many cases it’s probably doing a little bit more harm than good but I don’t really know that’s just a guess on my part and my hypothesis. What do you think?


Hiten Shah: Right. I think people went to the extreme on the whole idea of hustling and it was bound to have some backlash at some point. And there is really no justification for a constant message that says, you have to hustle, that’s my take. Doesn’t make sense. What do you mean? So, I’m going to work myself into the ground and get so stressed up that I can’t do anything. I’ve always been allergic to the way that it’s been popularized by many people, and it just feels like we’re just going to one extreme or another. And that message enables people to go to extremes or encourages people to go to extremes in order for them to be successful. I just see that cladiator style entrepreneur with big muscles and really lots of testosterone, right? That’s what I see when I hear that. And I think that for me, that’s definitely not most of the founders I know they’re nowhere near that, right?


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: Anyway, yeah, it’s good to get your take.


Steli Efti: Yeah, and I think the funny thing is, I think most people that we know and respect the two of us, in all honesty, I don’t think that, you even less than me, but even I, we don’t publish any content day to day that is suggesting to people how hard we work, right? I never see pictures of you, it’s 1:00 AM I’m still working on this product. You don’t do that shit and I don’t do that shit. Although people probably that see me on stage would assume that I am and then just stop following me, right. But I don’t and I know how hard you work and you know how hard I work, we work hard and it’s part of our life but it’s not something that we take pride in or that we think needs to be broadcasted, right.


Hiten Shah: Right.


Steli Efti: It’s just like, of course we work hard but we also love working. And I think that the problem that I have with broadcasting it all day long all the time is that, I think it’s one of these simple messages that makes people think there’s a simple solution, all I have to do is just work more hours and then I’m surely going to succeed it’s like one of these simple answers that’s not true. It’s the similar way if I see somebody all day long telling people they should take fat loss pills as a way to live a healthier life, I don’t know a lot about these pills and maybe for some people, this is a good thing to mix into other lifestyle changes they’re making. But in general, I’m like, this is probably not a good message to be broadcasting all day long, to be telling young impressionable people, if you want to live a happy and healthy life and look really sexy just take fucking chemicals all day long, to lose your appetite for food or something like that. That’s not a healthy long term strategy to succeed here. And similarly, I think the entrepreneurial community when I see people all day long screaming hustling broadcasting how hard they work, I’m like, what are we doing here? What is this really net net going to … How many people are really going to live a better more successful life following this advice long term? All right. I think we touched on this topic, this is an interesting one, we might have to come back and revisit. Do you really have to sacrifice your life and health in the early days as a founder or do you not? Curious to hear people’s opinions so if you have something on this topic an opinion, a story, something to share, some wisdom, always love to hear from you. Just ping as at to an or ping us on Twitter. And as always, if you enjoyed the episode five stars, give us all the stars, give us a nice review on iTunes. We highly appreciate it. That’s it from us.