Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about bragging versus being humble.

How you feel about an entrepreneur who brags about his successes or is humble about them is something that is very subjective in nature. However, there are certain situations where bragging or pumping yourself up might be the right thing to do and vice versa.

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about why people feel differently about humble founders versus those who brag often, the big revelation he made, why what’s important is the motivation behind people’s actions, the utility of being confident and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:28 Why this topic was chosen.

00:52 How people typically look at bragging versus humble.

04:35 Why the motivation behind what you do matters so much.

05:50 How you can never know the motive of people actions.

06:27 How people that are good at what they do, hardly have to say it.

07:00 How our attitudes towards people can affect how we look at them.

08:06 How MMA fighters pump themselves up before a fight.

09:00 The utility of being confident.

3 Key Points:

  • The things that people say about other people, say more about themselves than anybody else
  • If you’re a billionaire and you drive a Honda Accord, it’s because you want to drive a Honda Accord
  • I think we care too much about what other people do with their money.


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 bragging versus being humble, because we think that it’s just an interesting topic that I think both Steli and I have some thoughts on and haven’t gotten the chance to really think about. So y’all get to listen as we think about this topic between bragging and being humble. Bragging, it’s an interesting word to me because I always think about these words and what’s the connotation. The connotation is that you’re bragging, it’s a negative thing, it’s something that nobody wants to hear, and if you do it, you’re a bad person.


Steli Efti: Right.


Hiten Shah: Being humble comes across as oh, that person’s humble. They’re really successful and they don’t really talk like they are, or they don’t act like they are, or they drive a Honda Accord that’s a 1996 Honda Accord, like the first car I drove. And that’s it. And they have a billion dollars or whatever. It’s almost like those things that people do that we label … I’m going to get a little esoteric on it for a second, but those things that people label about other people say more about themselves than anybody else. It’s almost like if you keep talking about the person with the Honda Accord that’s worth a billion dollars or the fact that Warren Buffett supposedly lives in the same house he bought I don’t know how many years ago, 60 years ago, 50 years ago.


Steli Efti: When he was 12, when he was 12. Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Hiten Shah: And then you know, that’s cool. You have an opinion of that, you share it, and then it makes for good content on a blog post on Business Insider or something like that. But I’ve read a Quora post breaking down Warren Buffett. He has other houses apparently. Not to blow the man up, but that’s what I heard, that’s what I read. It was just because I’m interested in Warren Buffett just like many other people, and Charlie Munger and all these folks, because they’re just interesting, successful and share a lot of their wisdom. I just look at this and I’m like, I don’t know how much of this is our impression of other people and our own opinion and our own lens, or it’s actually truth about the other person and how they feel about themselves. Why does that billionaire drive a Honda Accord? I don’t think they think about it the way all of us think about it when we look at them. They’re just like, “This is my car. I drive this car.” End of story. Right? Literally, if you’re a billionaire and you’re driving a Honda Accord, it’s because you want to drive a Honda Accord. It’s not our judgment of why. One of my friends has a bunch of money and for the longest time, he drove a Chevy Lumina, and it was probably the first car he bought, I think. It was just a thing. Everyone talked about it and made fun of him for it or whatever, but at the end of the day, that’s what he drove and that was his decision. Then he goes and buys a Tesla and that’s cool. Now he drives a Tesla, like who cares? I think we care too much about other people, and bragging and humbleness and all that are just a judgment. My other friend has … I go over his house and he has, I don’t even remember what kind because I don’t look at these cars, but he has a very fancy sports car. He’s like, “Drive it, drive it, drive it.” I’m like, “I’ve driven these, it’s cool, but I don’t want to drive it. I don’t want to drive it.” He’s like, “No, drive it, drive it.” I’m like, “Okay.” Then I’m like, “All right, fine.” So I drive it, and he didn’t say it like this, but basically it came out. “You know why I wanted you to drive it?” I’m like, “Why? I told you I’ve driven one of these.” “Oh no, I fixed it up. It’s faster than it should be.”


Steli Efti: Oh.


Hiten Shah: I didn’t know that, but he fixed it up himself and he took pride in that, and he’s been working on it. He knows I like fast cars, but I don’t buy one and I won’t drive one like that regularly, and he has one. But you know what it was? It wasn’t about … It could have been a Pinto that he fixed up and he just wanted me to drive it. It wasn’t because it was a fancy car, it was because he fixed it up. I don’t know, I think perception is reality and appearances are deceiving. Sorry for the rant, but that’s my rant on the topic. I know I went off.


Steli Efti: All right, all right. I love it.


Hiten Shah: I’m dying to hear your perspective on bragging versus being humble.


Steli Efti: Well, we should really rename this podcast to It’s All Contextual or something, something with context because we’re always like, “It depends and context is everything.” I think the motivation behind what you do matters so much and the motivation is not apparent at all just by the appearance of it, right?


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: Driving a Prius, and I’m the Google founder, I’m a billionaire. I drive a Honda, a Prius. It could be because I care about the environment. This is a few years ago, I don’t know what they drive now. It could be because I love that car and I think it’s beautiful. It could be because I don’t care about cars and this seems like the best economical choice given all the factors. It could be that I just don’t care, right? Or, it could be that that is my ego boost, like I love driving something that surprises people in how humble I am, or how normal I am. Maybe that’s an ego drive, right? I drive the Honda because I get a big reaction every time somebody sees me because they expected me to drive a more expensive car, and that’s something that boosts my ego. Or it could be I drive it because I want to park at the public parking spaces and I don’t want, when the people that work for me, I don’t want them to see the Ferrari that I’m driving on the weekends that nobody knows about, right? You never fucking know why people do what they do and how they do what they do. The same thing is true, there’s a whole other rant about this about … Yeah, we have to talk about Rolex watches one day, because I have one-


Hiten Shah: Oh wow.


Steli Efti: And there’s a story behind why I have one. I’m actually wearing it right now.


Hiten Shah: Oh, cool.


Steli Efti: There’s a whole story why, and there’s so many different stories why people wear a watch like this and different reactions I get. There was also a different time where I was wearing expensive watches for a different reason, so there’s a whole lot to talk about there. One of the things that I’ve observed that is kind of an interesting topic, so people I admire or the thing that I find attractive or interesting, always people that are understated, right? I find that people that are incredibly good at what they do, they don’t have to say it. Other people say it for them. Their actions speak louder than words. Nothing is nicer than meeting somebody and then later discovering that they’ve done all these incredible things, not even from them. That’s what impresses me more. Nothing is a bigger turn off than meeting somebody for the first time and then starting to tell me how important they are or how impressive. Nothing makes me immediately think the opposite of them. I’m like, “You are a failure if you have to tell me you’re successful.”


Hiten Shah: Here’s the debate, right? Is that attitude preventing you from something? Is it preventing you from understanding the person? Is it preventing you from getting value or being valuable to the person depending on what the goal is? I’m not saying you’re right or wrong, that’s the existential question on I think our own judgments of other people, especially in this topic of whether they’re bragging or braggers, or whether they’re being humble.


Steli Efti: I think it’s a matter of that rigidity, right? This mental model of judging the world is not good or bad, but what’s bad about it, in and of itself, is that I only apply it to everything and I have no flexibility around this. I don’t sometimes think differently about things, or I don’t have that flexibility. I think that’s the bad thing about it. What I’ve noticed, one interesting thing, because I’m a huge fight fan right now. I’m watching all these boxers, I watch all these MMA fighters, all these Muay Thai fighters. One interesting thing that I’ve noticed is that there are some humble ones that don’t speak a lot and speak very humbly of themselves, but the majority of really exceptional fighters will speak quite … They will brag about that they’re the best, they’re going to destroy this other person before the fight is happening. They will pump themselves up. There’s something to that. There’s a utility to that. Part of it is to intimidate the other person, part of it is because they get more attention then for the fight, which makes them make more money and all that. There’s many, many factors that play into this. But part of it is also that they make themselves feel good. Similar to rappers, one of the reasons why rapping is such an aspirational, hip hop is such an aspirational version of music is because it came out of poverty, and so they were talking about being rich and that they’re the best and they’re the smartest and they’re the most successful. They are making themselves feel better about themselves and start kind of mind programming themselves about this life that they’re going to have. And there is value in that. And people like to hear it. I like to hear people that are rapping about … They put you in a mood of confidence and of like, “Yeah, I’m going to kick ass today.” That’s a good feeling and a good state to be in versus somebody that would rap about, “I know nothing and I always tried to learn and who knows what I’m going to accomplish in life. Life is complicated.” That’s not a fun song to listen to. I can’t do anything with that.


Hiten Shah: No. That’s true.


Steli Efti: I’ve been thinking about this in the business context, obviously. What’s the utility of being confident? There’s a lot of utility in speaking highly of yourself and your business. There’s a lot of utility for morale, for being able to recruit people, for being able to raise money, for being able to get attention from press. There’s a lot of value in that, and it’s something that I think I dismissed for too long, hence why I recently started thinking about maybe I’m too rigid about this … The other thing that’s interesting is that any time that somebody on my team wants to talk about me and for instance, my brand like, “Oh, the Steli Efti brand, we need to do this,” it makes me instantly feel uncomfortable to talk about myself in the third person, talk about myself in some positive way. I don’t know, and that discomfort makes me think okay, here’s an area I need to grow. Here’s an area that I’m not … I shouldn’t feel uncomfortable about this. I should use it when it’s useful and not use it when I don’t want to, but feeling uncomfortable about something, to me, means always that there’s something there that needs poking and needs further exploring.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, I see what you mean. I think that’s a good way to bookend this one, which is basically if you’re judging somebody else, it has to do with yourself in some way or another, and you should figure out what that looks like and what that means for you and if that’s preventing you from having a different perspective that would be valuable. I’ll just say on my end, when I figure that out about myself that I’m actually judging someone or I’m being very critical in a way that makes me close minded, I want to figure out why and I want to figure out why am I feeling that way and how do I become more open minded? Because I think that open mindedness helps you, honestly, stay in your own shit and not get into someone else’s, and that’s what I’m really trying to do with this stuff, right? That’s why this topic’s really interesting because it’s a judgment, it really is, to think that someone’s humble or to think that they’re bragging. We don’t know their story until we do, and even then, we don’t know them. We are not them. We are still yet impacted by something they did or are doing, and making a judgment and putting in our opinion, our own filter on. I think that that’s a close minded viewpoint. It doesn’t mean any of us are perfect and are not going to be judgmental, it just means that I’d rather be open minded so again, I don’t get in anyone else’s ish.


Steli Efti: That’s it. Amen. This is it from us for this episode. We’ll hear and see you very soon.


Hiten Shah: Bye.