Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about we they recently learned as dads that helped them as founders.

For most people, our first teacher is usually our fathers. From riding a bicycle to playing football, fathers typically teach us many lessons when we were children. Our dads typically are there for us through our heartbreaks and failures, and heartily encourage and pat us on our back when we achieved something.

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about what made this year’s father’s day different, an example of a situation where a person never had a father, special moments and lessons they learned from their kids and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:33 Why this topic was chosen.

02:30 What made Steli appreciate being a dad.

03:00 What made this year’s father’s day different.

04:18 An example of a situation where a person never had a father.

05:59 Steli shares a special moment he had with his kids.

09:03 How Steli can sometimes be part of the problem.

10:37 How empathy can help people do their best.

11:33 Hiten shares a special moment he had with his kids.

3 Key Points:

  • I just talk to my kids more.
  • When things are difficult that a good thing.
  • I am a big part of why he gets frustrated so much.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti .


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. We’re actually recording after Father’s Day. It’s the day after Father’s Day today. We wanted to do just a quick podcast on Father’s Day. Don’t know where it’s going to go, but I think ultimately it’s an important day for us fathers. We’re both fathers. I think it’s interesting. Steli mentioned that he wanted to do this, and it’s interesting you mentioned that, because this was a very interesting Father’s Day for me, and interesting in a great way where I actually felt the need, and I texted you too, actually felt the need to text as many fathers as I could remember yesterday, and just say Happy Father’s Day. I don’t think I’ve ever really done it. I’ve done it to a few people, but I’m talking, I probably hit 20 or 30 people. I don’t know, it just meant something to me this year in a different way. Not sure why.


Steli Efti: Interesting, because first of all, I got a very sweet text from you. I was really happy about that, and I wrote you something back. You’re the only person who texted me about Father’s Day, by the way. You really stood out for me. But I saw so many messages on social media about it. Maybe last year I was not mentally there. I don’t know what it was, but this year, more so than ever before, it was like, wow, everybody’s sharing something related to Father’s Day. What is going on? It was like my screen was flooded with content around this. For me, it made me do one thing that’s maybe not really practical, really doesn’t have anything to do with startups, but it did make me step back and re-remember to be grateful that I’m a dad.


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: And that I’m having a chance, at least with my oldest … My oldest is now … This year was kind of interesting, because my father died when I was six. So last year when he turned six years, my oldest is going to turn seven in exactly 14 days, when he turned six, I was like, “Okay, I was this old when my dad died.” It was so interesting to see. I was like, “I was so tiny. I thought I was a bit older.” It was just a good, a funky thing to have my son as a way to relive that or go through that experience of what six even means, what that age even means. But also it’s like for me, a little bit of a, wow, I’m grateful that I get to spend more time with him than my dad and I got to spend together. It’s kind of a reminder for me to be a grateful and how much I actually enjoy and love having two little monsters as my sons. That was kind of a big thing about the whole thing. It was really beautiful. There were so many nice messages. People shared so many stories about their parents and their fathers. I don’t know if this has been as intense every year and I just missed it, or if this year, for whatever reason, was more special than before in terms of how much people shared around this.


Hiten Shah: Yeah, yeah. I got some really sweet messages back from people. I don’t know, it’s something in the air maybe. I don’t know. But I definitely feel like it was different. I like the grateful and the gratitude part of what you said, because I think it’s great, whether it’s Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, or any of these things where we’re actually celebrating a type of human in our life. It’s mother and father typically, whether you have a great relationship, whatever kind of childhood, whatever you had, I think there’s definitely ways to express this. A friend of mine, Melissa, she shared on Facebook how she never really had a father. Growing up, I guess he wasn’t around at all. Her mother raised her. She mentioned how, and she included me in this, so super humbled by this, but that she has role models that she described as embodying that for her. There was a bunch of us in there. Yeah. All I can say is I think something was in the air. It seemed like a really beautiful day on social media as well as, I think, in the real world for many of us with our kids. That’s special, you know? It’s nice to recognize that. I’m not sure if I’ve experienced that before in the past either.


Steli Efti: Yeah, it’s interesting. Well it’s beautiful. I don’t need to know why or understand it. It just made me grateful for, probably it was one of the best days on social media that I can remember in just terms of sheer amount of really sweet emotional things people shared about their personal lives and people that really matter to them. It’s super nice. One thing that I think might be an interesting idea for this kind of special, unique or different episode is, instead of talking about, which we can, and I think we have in some ways in the past, talking about what does it mean to be a dad when you run a startup? I don’t know. I’m not as inspired to talk about that, but what I’d love to do is maybe share either a special moment or a special lesson that we learned recently from our children or with our children that may or may not be in some way useful in other areas of life as well, maybe even in running your startup. I do have an example. That’s why I’m proposing this. If you’re up for it, I’ll share first, and then the you can follow me after.


Hiten Shah: Please, yes, go ahead.


Steli Efti: All right. Here is something that is a lesson that I learned, it took me a long time to learn. My oldest son is, so he’s six, he’s about to turn seven. He’s a super ambitious dude. He looks exactly like his mother. It’s like blonde hair, blue eyes, has got all the good looks from his mom, but he has my personality, 100%. When I look, his personality is very much like mine. One of the ways that that expresses itself is that he is, and he was since birth, since he’s been a little baby, just very ambitious and very driven. I love that about him, but one thing that frustrates me about him is something that is a weakness that I had for a long time, and maybe I still have in some ways, that he’s a pretty talented little kid. In most things that he does or tries to learn, he has a pretty easy time doing pretty well on these tasks or new experiences. So when he struggles, he is getting frustrated much quicker than usual. I judge him pretty harshly for that, or in the past I’ve been frustrated with him for that, because I’m trying to teach him that when things are difficult, that’s a good thing. That means that he can really grow, and really learn, and his character is going to be measured on how many difficult things he learns to overcome, not how easy things are for him. Trying to impart these important lessons, and sometimes he’s not that interested in learning them, and so we’ve had our fair share of frustrating moments with each other. Recently, there was a moment where he was trying to do something, it wasn’t working, and he was about to get frustrated about it, and I was about to get frustrated because he’s getting frustrated. Then I realized, there was just a moment where I realized that as he was trying to do this thing, there were many people in the room, but he was constantly looking at me, just checking in with me, if I’m looking at him, if I’m observing him. I don’t know what it was, but in a moment, it clicked for me. I realized, when I’m around, I’m actually making it a lot harder for him, because he really wants to impress me. He really wants to do well in front of me. So when he has a difficult time and I’m there, I am a big part of why he gets frustrated so much then, and why he wants to stop engaging in that activity, because he doesn’t want to look bad in front of his dad. You could really tell, the way he was looking at me while he was struggling, that he really didn’t want me to see his struggle. Then I realized, “Oh shit. I’m part of the problem. I’m actually making the situation worse.” Instead of going there, and being stern with him, and telling him that he needs to keep struggling in front of me, I need to have a bit more compassion, and actually understand that he has a hard time being vulnerable in front of me. Maybe just showing him that it’s okay to fail at something in front of Dad, and that I don’t judge him for that, is a much better way for me to help him than going there and giving him a speech about struggle is good, and struggle is important. Since I learned that lesson, we had a few moments where usually they would escalate, and I would get frustrated, and I would talk to him about these things, and I haven’t. I’ve seen, it’s too early to really tell, but I’ve seen in a number of situations I think I’ve observed us both dealing better with struggle together. And me being less of a source of acceleration for him not to want to feel it’s something I’ll look bad at something. It took me a long time, this is something for two years I’ve been asking myself, “How can I help him get better at this?” until I realized, “Oh, I am actually a big source of why he’s having such a difficult time with this.” To me, that translates really well to some of the challenges I’ve even had in the company, where when I get involved with something, or when people present certain things in front of me, just for the mere fact that I’m in the room, it makes it harder for people sometimes to succeed, because they really want to impress me, because they feel like I’m this important or special person. A way to help them is to give them even more empathy, and show them how okay it is to not be perfect in front of me, versus judge them for maybe their nerves or their struggle or whatever else. Yeah, that’s been probably one of the most profound lessons I’ve learned from my little guy recently.


Hiten Shah: That’s pretty awesome. That’s really awesome. I just talk to my kids more. I’ve just started doing that. They’re five and nine. I was talking to my son, and I asked him does he remember something from when he was younger? He’s nine. I did this because I want to remember things from my childhood, just experiences that are just in my memory, just there, and that I can’t forget, or that can teach me something. He literally right away mentioned, “Oh, I was eating. I was three years old. I was eating mashed potatoes.” He had a babysitter at the time, and he recalls not wanting to eat the mashed potatoes, and somehow he ends up breaking the plate. It was a glass plate, and the babysitter cut her finger. He remembers that. To me, it was just a fascinating moment. I wouldn’t have thought that he would remember something like that. It was pretty fascinating to me to see that he could remember it from six years ago, and it’s still in his memory. Part of the reason is, I think those are the types of things that I personally just want to understand about myself, which is like what did my childhood experiences create for me in my head? What kind of stories am I holding and carrying? So it was really insightful to see the one that he might be holding as a result of that experience.


Steli Efti: That’s incredible. What question did you ask him that led to him sharing this experience that he remembered?


Hiten Shah: I just asked him, “Do you remember anything from when you were younger?” [crosstalk]


Steli Efti: You didn’t specify what age? You just said, “Do you remember things from when you were younger?” and that was the first thing that popped up in his head?


Hiten Shah: Yup, exactly.


Steli Efti: That’s incredible. I need to ask that. Well, now I’m going to ask that question as well.


Hiten Shah: You should. It’s a fascinating one.


Steli Efti: I dying to hear what they’re going to say.


Hiten Shah: Exactly, right? Yeah.


Steli Efti: That’s incredible. That’s a beautiful thing to do. It’s such a simple thing, but so rare. I don’t, not sure if I’ve ever talked to my children about their younger years, and if they remember those, and what things come to their mind. Just a simple thing to do, but it can be pretty impactful. When he shared this story with you, did you just listen? Was there any kind of, did you follow up with anything, or was it just like, “Wow, you remember that?” Was there anything that followed up, or came out of this as a, I don’t know, something that you wanted to tell him about this experience being good or bad, or anything else? Or was it just a moment where he shared the first memory, and you just let it sit in the room without any judgment or any kind of dissecting that memory [crosstalk 00:14:07]?


Hiten Shah: Yeah. I didn’t dissect it much at all. I heard it, and I was like, “Oh. Did it make you feel a certain way?” He’s like, “I don’t remember. Not really.” I’m like, “Okay.” Then I just sat with that for a bit. But yeah, that was mostly it. Yeah.


Steli Efti: That’s beautiful. All right, well, this is it. This is it from our side. Again, if you’re listening to this podcast, and you are a parent, and this is not just about dads, this is just the perspective we can share because we’re not mothers, we’re fathers. But if you’re a parent, and you’re running a startup, and you have any special moment to share recently, any lesson learned from your child, and you feel encouraged to share it, we definitely would love to hear it. Make sure to reach out, [inaudible 00:14:56], We always love to hear from you. When this becomes a two way street, where we share something about us, and you guys share something back, that definitely always brightens our day. Then the last thing I’ll say is, if you do have parents in your life, and if you are in somewhat good terms with them, write them a text or give them a call, tell them that they’re awesome. Tell them that you love them. As a parent, you cannot hear it often enough. Make sure to let the people that are really special in your life know. That’s it for us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon.


Hiten Shah: Yup. Happy parenting.