Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to listen & learn from those with less success than you.

Getting advice from people is taking that feedback is a key part of growing both personally and professionally. Being receptive to people’s opinions helps strengthen the relationships we have with them and gives us a different perspective on that topic. 

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about how you can learn from anybody and everybody, what Hiten cares about when he asks for advice from people, examples of people not to listen to and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:41 Why this topic was chosen.

02:30 How you can learn from anybody and everybody.

05:15 What Hiten cares about when he asks for advice from people.

05:38 Worst thing that can happen when you listen to people opinion.

06:59 People that Hiten doesn’t listen to.

07:17 Examples of people not to listen to.

07:55 A weakness of Steli.

09:33 People Steli loves listening to.

3 Key Points:

  • You can learn from anybody and everybody.
  • Everyone can teach you something
  • What is their perspective


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 how to learn and listen to people that are much less successful than you. So here’s why I want to talk to you about this, Hiten. I had a conversation with a friend the other day and I don’t know how we got to that topic, but we talked about my brothers. I have two older brothers, they’re both entrepreneurs. We might have talked about me manipulating them many years ago into entrepreneurship and thinking maybe that wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had because they had some good success but they had a lot of failures as well afterwards, but anyways, that besides the point. My friend and I were talking about my brothers being entrepreneurs and all that. At some point he asked me, how much do they know about your business, and do you guys talk shop? He was admiring us, like, “I wish I had brothers that I could talk about business entrepreneurship all the time.” And I was thinking about it and I was telling him it’s not like that. My brothers’ businesses are very different from mine. They have two small almost like a local AT&T shop or something that they’re managing as kind of franchise partners of sorts, and so their business is kind of very small, local consumer shop type business, very little to do with mine. The way they think about business, their experience, honestly, and their success is very different from mine. So oftentimes when I talk to my brothers, when they ask me about my company, I tell them very honestly kind of the good, the bad, what’s going on right now, and then oftentimes, especially my oldest brother, will feel the need to give advice or give his two cents and he’ll tell me something, “Oh, if I had this problem, this is the way you need to approach this,” and I barely ever listen. I kind of just sit there, nod and smile, but I’m not taking anything in. And that’s mainly because, honestly, I’m like, “You don’t fucking know anything.” Like I love my older brother, but when it comes to business I don’t have that high of an opinion of him. I don’t think that he’s super knowledgeable. So, as I was telling this to my friend, I’m like, “Yeah, to be honest, I’m a little bit of a shitty human. I’m not really listening to him when he tries to give me business advice.” As I was telling him that, I was like, you know what, that’s probably a mistake, because there might be truths in what he wants to share with me that have nothing to do with his success or failure. I just need to be more open to it. I just shut down with certain people when they try to give me advice if I don’t admire and respect them or if I don’t think they know a lot more about something than me. I’m actually pretty bad at this. That triggered a number of thoughts since that conversation which has made me think about this topic a lot more. “Huh, why do I not pay that much attention when I talk to somebody that I don’t think highly of, or when I don’t think is much more successful than me talk about business now?” And I feel my thinking is that that’s most likely a weakness of mine. Like, you can learn from anybody and everybody. They don’t have to have a tremendous amount of success. And besides that, if they’re telling you their advice or their opinion, you’re there, you’re listening, you might as well open your mind just for a second to take it all in. That’s not going to cost you much more than sitting there and actively closing your mind and not paying attention and not letting any of these ideas permeate. So, I don’t know, I’ve been mulling this topic over. It’s kind of been on my mind. I’m like, “Why am I this way?” Like I start observing myself more in these situations and I thought who better to philosophize, to have a conversation about this type of topic than you? First of all, because this might be something not everybody that listens to us agrees with, would you agree that people don’t have to be more successful than you for you to listen and learn from them even if it’s in a business context?


Hiten Shah: Yeah, I actually 100% agree that everyone can teach you something and someone doesn’t have to be more successful than you or more knowledgeable than you or even an expert in something for you to be able to get a perspective from them. I think that’s the way I would reference this in the sense of, like, what is their perspective, and that’s what I care about. I don’t necessarily care about exactly what they’re going to say. What I do care about is what their specific perspective is and how they came to it, because those are the kinds of things that are going to change my perspective or have a potential to change mine in a way that I might not be thinking of. Because oftentimes when we think about someone who knows what they’re doing or are successful in something, we might just want to associate with them or think that we, ourselves, are them or are aspirationally going towards them, but that doesn’t necessarily give you a variation and a variety of perspectives. It doesn’t give you a multiplicity of views that enables you to actually come to the right answer or come to the right answer for you. So, to me, yeah, if your brothers have an opinion, I’d want to hear it, and I’d probably ask a lot more questions to understand where their opinion comes from and what their logic is, because I think there’s value in that. It’s almost like worst case scenario you learn what not to do and how what not to do, how to think about not what to do in case you’re worried about, oh, their opinion doesn’t matter or something like that. So in my mind, I think their opinion is absolutely relevant and should be something highly considered no matter who it is.


Steli Efti: Is there any type of person in your life that you actively don’t listen to, where when you’re direct with them and they want to share something with you you just shut down your mind to it? Do you have any kind of context or situation where you behave this way?


Hiten Shah: Yeah, it’s a good question. I think that that’s a very good question. I think that, to me, the way that my mind works, it has more to do with do I value their opinion on the topic more than do I value the person or the person’s opinion generically? Because I’m sure there’s topics, and correct me if I’m wrong, where you feel like your brothers have lots of expertise, right?


Steli Efti: Yeah, absolutely.


Hiten Shah: So, to me, it’s almost topic-based where you can shut down, at least in my experience, than just based simply on, hey, this person doesn’t know what they’re talking about.


Steli Efti: I mean, there’s definitely people that people shouldn’t be listening to, so there’s certain situations where you might have to interact with either somebody that is very destructive in their criticism or feedback or just a negative person or just an idiot or whatever, a stranger that offers advice that wasn’t solicited and isn’t welcome. It’s not like you should always listen to everybody. Like, listening maybe even so we’re just not saying you have to accept everything you hear. You don’t have to agree. But listening is something that, I don’t know, I just find that when I’m in a situation where I am not leaving the conversation, I’m staying there and somebody’s talking to me, I’m wondering if actively not listening’s just a dumb habit that I have when I don’t believe that this person has expertise to offer to me that I don’t already have. And there’s other areas as well. It’s funny, since I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve discovered that when people talk to me about, I don’t know, like life coaches, right? They’ve met a life coach, or kind of a personal growth coach, and they talk to me about them and they’re like, “Oh, he has this or she has this great system, and they follow this psychogram thing, and then they evaluate you and this, and it’s super interesting,” I zone out. I instantly go, “This is all bullshit. Not interested in this.” But because it’s more of a habit than a in the moment decision, because I do it just instinctively, immediately, I find it probably to be a bad idea. It means that there’s some bias that I have that I’ve developed over time that it can’t serve me. [inaudible] I do something without free choice and it’s like with zero flexibility, I always do the same thing. I always shut down my mind and don’t listen when somebody talks about a certain topic or in a certain way with a certain person talking to me. I think that that’s can’t be serving me well, because anytime I’ve learned to become more open-minded, that has always served me, so I think even if a person doesn’t have that … I think the other thing is also, so we have sidelined to this topic, but sometimes I find that if you’re one or the other end of the spectrum, it’s actually quite fascinating. So, talking to my children about business, I’m actually super fascinated, because they know so little but there’s some purity. Or talking to my grandmother when she was still alive about certain topics. Even if it’s somebody that doesn’t have a lot of experience, education, if they have a complete beginners mind to a problem, I find that these people oftentimes have something really insightful to share. So I’m actually very open-minded to talking with a total beginner about something and listen to them. And then there’s the experts, people that are really proven that they know a lot about something. I love listening to these people. It’s the people that have some expertise that is lower than yours. Maybe it’s also the style. My brother offers expertise as if he was a billionaire, so he offers his expertise with a level of confidence that is a mismatch with his true success and his true knowledge, in my evaluation. It’s when it’s that kind of a mismatch that maybe because I have a dislike for that, I then just shut down. I still don’t believe that’s a good strategy because I’m sure that if I just listen, sometimes he could have something really valuable to share, or maybe listening to him and ask him for how he came up with this idea, or what he has experienced that led him to this strategy or this tactic or this advice maybe then will trigger a new thought in me that then will be really creative or interesting or valuable instead of just shutting down my mind, and with that really there’s no chance for learning, there’s no chance for growing, there’s no chance for him to learn because I’m not offering anything in return. I’m just sitting there and pretending to be listening, and then when he’s done I go and change the topic and just move on.


Hiten Shah: Right.


Steli Efti: Which is kind of a waste of life for both of us in that moment.


Hiten Shah: True. Yeah, I think the lesson and the most interesting part of this discussion for me is it’s not necessarily about people, it’s not even about topic, it’s just about how you’re evaluating the time you spend and how you’re learning from other people no matter who they are. And I think that open-mindedness can be really helpful in anyone’s life. So, valuing your time is important. You should value your time. Just like you said, it might not be good for either of you if you’re ignoring the person’s thoughts and feedback, and instead you can just be open-minded and be like, oh, that’s how that person thinks. This is what I can learn from that, which is either how not to think about it for yourself, or how to think about it, or just a different perspective. I find perspectives really valuable, and I find it important to also value our time and make the most of every moment that we have, if you want me to get a little sappy about it.


Steli Efti: Beautiful. No, couldn’t have said it any better. Right, this is it for us for this episode. This actually is such a funky episode that I’m curious to hear our listeners’ thoughts, stories, response. So, if you have certain situations where you’ve learned to listen and learned from people that before you were having a harder time with, if you have anything that reset that triggered you in a way, share a story, share a strategy or an experience, we’d love to hear from you. Just send us the emails:,, and with that we’ll wrap up this episode and [inaudible] you very soon.


Hiten Shah: See ya.