Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about building your content muscle.

As founders, sometimes we want to create content, but we talk ourselves out of it. And this could be due to many reasons, and one of those is that we overthink it and strive for perfection in version 1, and then when you start doing it, it feels wrong and this takes all the sails out of your wind.

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about how to get comfortable at creating content, why you shouldn’t over think your content strategy, the importance of understanding that you might suck in the beginning and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:28 Why this topic was chosen.

01:52 Why you shouldn’t over think your content strategy.

04:05 Why you should start with whatever comes easiest for you.

05:16 Why you should find the form factor that’s easy for you and start there.

05:50 The importance of understanding that you might suck in the beginning.

07:05 How consistency can help you be great at creating content.

07:56 How to get comfortable at creating content.

09:30 Why self-criticism can make you self conscious.

3 Key Points:

  • You’re over thinking it and trying to be to perfect at it.
  • Whatever comes easiest for you, start there.
  • You don’t have to be perfect when you get start
  • You can either progress, or you can look great. You can’t be both at the same time.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.


Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat we want to talk about building your content muscle. So, here’s why I wanted to talk to you about this and why I wanted to share it with The Startup Chat Nation and the listeners, I’ve had this experience many, many times but it’s happened again more recently where a good friend of mine who is charismatic as hell, very wise, smart person, big heart, lots of unique and interesting experiences as an entrepreneur, has done super small bootstrap things, has done big venture funded things, has failed, has succeeded, but is just overall a beautiful human being with lots and lots of funky experiences and lots of life energy to him. He has been having the desire and has been communicating the desire to create content, start creating more content probably for the last year to me. And he has been somebody that I’ve heavily encouraged and I know we have a lot of common friends and a lot of people encourage him heavily to create content because he’s such an entertaining storyteller. He’s such a great personality. And so he’s been talking about starting doing content for a long time, but he has been struggling in really getting into a groove, and the struggle is always the same. I’m sure this is the same for you, but and maybe there’s some listeners out there, I’m pretty sure there are, that have been thinking about starting a podcast or YouTube channel or blog more or just tweet more, whatever the hell it is, and have not been finding success with it or getting really into it. I always find it happens for the same reason which is you’re overthinking it and you’re trying to be too perfect. In version one, hence, where you’re never really getting into it and when you start doing it, it always feels wrong because you’re not as great at it as you think you should, which then takes all the wind out of your sails, all the momentum out of the whole thing. He is a perfect example because he’s such a charismatic storyteller, but the moment he puts, the few times I was traveling with him through Thailand, we were doing Muay Thai Camps and training together, with [Ramine] together. Big shout out to Ramine who is a big part of this podcast and behind the scenes. And so we’re nagging him on to start recording and not overthinking, and you could tell the moment he would click on record on his laptop or on his webcam, it would turn into a different person and personality. It would be the struggle bus. You could just listen that he’d be like, just he would sound like some fake YouTuber. He was not himself anymore and he would struggle and you could tell how much energy it took out of him and the moment he would stop the recording, he’d be exhausted, and be like down on himself. Aw, his really sucked. I’m not sure. And then it would take all the energy and joy and excitement out of doing this again. So, I know the advice I’ve given him and I’ve given many, many other people, but I’d love to get your take on this before I share my take on this. This is really an episode for everybody out there that wants to create more content and has a good reason. This guy, he’s a teacher. He loves sharing, he loves teaching, he loves communicating. So, he has all the makings and he wants to have more of an impact and share more of his thoughts and lessons learned and stories with the world. So, he has the right motivations, but he can’t get started. He’s struggling so much getting into it and building that muscle. What do you tell to somebody like that? I’m sure you’ve observed this pattern many, many times before yourself.


Hiten Shah: Oh yeah. So, what I tell someone like that is whatever comes easiest for you, start there. So, if this person is good at talking and telling stories, he should talk and tell stories, and literally record that. Then have somebody else turn that into content, like written content. Which means he might be good at a podcast, he might be good at even practicing by getting on someone’s podcast, and being a guest and telling his stories. So, to me the best piece of advice that I give on this is go do what’s super easy for you to do that you do really well, and then use that to motivate yourself to turn it into content.


Steli Efti: I love that. And there’s one more thing that I’ll add to that and then… I mean this could be a very short episode because it’s not that much to it. But the big thing that I tell people besides the find the form factor that works for you, find the thing that’s easy. Maybe you’re great on Twitter, maybe you’re great on Instagram, you’re better at taking pictures or videos. Maybe you’re better at long form, written out, researched, super in-depth, data-driven, block content, or maybe you’re better are short form, or something completely different. Maybe you’re great at slides and you should just design slide text on certain topics because that’s easy to you. Whatever is easy to you. You can start with one form factor, then you can get the help from others to trend build that one form factor into other form factors. Right? Take a blog post and turn it into an audio recording, an audio recording into an ebook, or whatever. But, besides finding the right form factor that’s easy for you to get started, is getting comfortable with the fact that in the beginning you just might suck. Everything in life takes a certain level of practice. You don’t have to be perfect when you get started. The problem is people have … You know, I mean when you put yourself, when you create content, maybe it’s such an intimate thing because it’s you speaking or you writing that we are so uncomfortable when we speak and we listen to it and we think this isn’t the most brilliant version of myself. Part of being great at content is being able to create content consistently and being able to eventually learn how to get into the groove or framework or mental mindset that allows you to be your best self, consistently. Not just that one moment at a bar with a bunch of people that are laughing where you’re just like you’re hitting your stride and your storytelling abilities, but being able to tap into that consistently and professionally whenever you want. So, the only way to get there is to consistently create content and have that mindset that maybe for the first three, four months your content isn’t going to be that great, and that should be fine. Maybe you’re just building up your content muscle, building up your ability to get into the framework and finding what works for you. What you have to do before creating content to get good at it and getting comfortable in being uncomfortable and getting comfortable in looking a little stupid in the name of progress, or not looking as smart and not shining as bright as you would like to in the name of growth and progress. So, for him it’s really getting comfortable with clicking the record button because the moment he clicks record, he’s so self-conscious that it takes him out of himself and it takes him out of his best version of himself. Hence why he then just sounds like any other person “creating content” versus sounding like himself. But the only way he’s going to get comfortable hitting the record button is if he does it often now that he stops being so self-conscious about it and stops being so in his own head and gets comfortable because it’s something that he’s used to. So, my biggest advice on top of find the right channel is be okay with just not being the most brilliant version of yourself in the beginning and commit to creating content consistently for at least two or three months before you really start judging yourself that harshly and you expect greatness or expect your stuff to be as good as it could be. In the beginning, it probably is not going to be as good as it could be and that needs to be okay for you, otherwise you’ll never get into a groove and you’re never going to accomplish the things you want to or create the value for the world that you know you can.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, people have the hardest time with that because they have all this fear around creating content, right, and then being judged. So, I think it’s really good advice. It’s the thing that you should attack and get over which is the sort of self-criticism and the fear of putting something out there and nobody caring or liking it. Well, it’s okay. Like at least you put it out there and you’ll get better. It’s this all practice makes perfect sort of thing.


Steli Efti: Yeah, and it’s another episode we should record. I’ll write it down. I had this very thought yesterday at the gym where for the first time I wanted to try some new exercises, some things I wasn’t quite as comfortable, and my inner dialogue shifted so much. The things that I’m comfortable doing, I don’t even look around. I don’t pay attention to who else is in the gym if anybody looks at me or not. I’m just in my own zone, but the moment I try something where I felt uncomfortable and I felt like I might look like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, instantly I became super self-conscious, and I paid attention to everybody. Like is anybody looking at me? Is everybody close to this area that could judge me if I look like a total fool trying this new exercise or trying this new thing? And I caught myself thinking, ooh, this is so important. You can either progress or you can look great. You probably can’t do both things in life, right?


Hiten Shah: No.


Steli Efti: Right. You cannot massively grow and progress while at the same time looking like a million bucks, looking like an amazing person that’s a pro at this thing. And so our ego is in the way of our progress, and once we… And usually, the first time you go to the gym you have to over come that ego and that self-consciousness, but once you have setup a routine and setup a rhythm and setup something that you now feel comfortable with, that’s your biggest trap. Now you just want to go to the gym and do the same fucking thing every time forever because that’s now your new comfort zone versus keep expanding your comfort zone because you want to progress. That’s so true in everything. But I think content is even especially so true because it is you put your name and yourself out there and you’re saying I think what I have to say is so important it needs to be recorded and published and listened to. And then when you listen to it yourself and you think, aw, this wasn’t that good and I could have said this much better and I could have… You know when you can tell that you’re not as good as you know you can be, it’s very hard to push the publishing button and keep going. But it is needed if you really want to progress. And if you want to get into the content game and sharing game, then there’s no way around this. You’re going to have to push through that level of discomfort and putting yourself out there for your own criticism more so than anybody else’s in the beginning.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, I tweeted your quote.


Steli Efti: Beautiful.


Hiten Shah: Our ego is in the way of all progress.


Steli Efti: Yeah, it is, it is. It is what’s pushing us to want to progress, but then it’s holding us back because we only want to progress in ways that look good. Right? We want to progress in ways that feel good and look good, and there’s very little progress to be found in those places. All right. Look out for more on this topic from us in future Startup Chat episodes. But this is it for us for this episode. If you enjoyed it, please give us a review, a five star review on iTunes, Stitcher, and everywhere else you’re listening to us. We’ll hear you very soon.


Hiten Shah: See ya.