Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how we’re all dreaming of our own realities.

Sometimes, we tend to dwell too much on past experiences that we don’t enjoy the moment that we live in. This can make us unproductive and lead to so many of the issues and uncertainties we encounter in life.

In today’s episode of the show, Hiten’s theory about how every experience we have is all a dream, how holding on to memories of that past can diminish our future experiences, why you should figure out where your primary focus is in your thinking and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:38 Why this topic was chosen.

02:51 Hiten’s theory about how every experience we have is all a dream.

03:47 One way to test this theory.

06:03 How holding on to memories of that past can diminish our future experiences.

07:49 A killer quote by Erich Maria Remarque.

08:30 When Hiten typically brings up this concept.

10:45 3 ways people tend to look at the world.

11:52 Why you should figure out where your primary focus is in your thinking.

3 Key Points:

  • It was all a dream.
  • As human beings, we hold on to so much of the past
  • Each individual has their own perspective.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.


Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about a thing Hiten told me, an idea that he planted in my mind that months later I still think about. I will just give you guys the quote and then Hiten will unpack the conversation and we’ll dig deeper. “It was all a dream.”


Hiten Shah: Yeah. So yeah. There are so many people that I’ve explained this to privately and I don’t think I really shared much publicly, maybe randomly somewhere on some podcasts, but this is our podcast and it’s something I told you and if you’re still thinking about it, I know other people are, too. And it really kind of makes you wonder about a lot of things when you think about it like this. So I said this in reference to something I’ve been thinking about a lot, and what I’ve been thinking about a lot is the fact that as human beings we hold on to so much of the past and we hold on to things typically that are related to ourselves and also that are related to other people. And one of the points I want to make about life is that whatever your perspective is today, now or was, or even the fact that you and I right now, Steli, are having two very different experiences, even though we’re in the same moment, in the same conversation recording a podcast. Now, let’s just expand that. There are thousands of people that are going to hear this. Think about all the perspective that they’re going to have when they read this and how many different perspectives there are. Each individual has their own perspective. Even if we see and hear and talk about the same thing, we didn’t really have the same experience. It was our own individualistic experience to have. And so when I think about those kinds of things, and a lot of the theories people have out there that make it very complicated, like we live in illusion or quantum theory proves there’s multiple dimensions or aliens, right? And all these things and whatever you want to believe. I have no judgment, zero judgment. I probably know more of these theories than most people who are listening because I just am curious. And so my summary is, it was all a dream. Whatever you’re hanging on to, whatever happened. Even if it was literally 30 seconds ago, whatever I just said, it was all a dream. It was just all a dream. And what’s a dream? It’s something you don’t even believe was real. It wasn’t real. You woke up from it, you’re like, “Wait, what just happened? It was so intense. I did this and I did that and wait, I was sleeping and I was dreaming. It didn’t really happen.” So anything, even your best moment in life, it was all a dream. You can’t go back to it. It’s in your mind. And whoever else was there, has a different version of it in their mind, so we’re all just dreaming.


Steli Efti: Holy shit. How do I even respond to this? One beautiful thing or one, I think, practical application of this to test this at the end and see how it feels to people that are listening is to take something, an experience that happened to you a long time ago. It doesn’t even have to be a long time ago, but just for fun, something that stands out. Maybe your last vacation, since I’m on vacation right now, maybe this is what’s on top of my mind, your last vacation and just to think about a few things that happened during that vacation and see what remembering that vacation, what it feels like, what it looks like, how intense the images are, the feelings, the sounds, the moments, the memories. And then imagine going on vacation to a country you’ve never been. Imagine you walking through the streets, and meeting people, laughing, having experiences. And now tell me if those two, if the one memory and the one imagination, if they’re drastically different, right? This is one thing that I’ve noticed is when I remember even super intense experiences, it’s hard to tell that it ever really happened. There’s something, I don’t know yet what it is, some criteria to that memory that makes me internally go, “Yes, I know this happened for sure and I know this didn’t happen.” Or, “I’m not sure if this happened.” But in terms of the intensity of its realness, it’s all the same. If I imagine something, if I remember something, it’s obviously not reality right now. It wasn’t even to get metal physical, it wasn’t even real reality back then because there’s no … There’s some overlap of shared reality if we’re all in the same room, but that overlap can be quite small, surprisingly small, depending on who you are sharing that reality with. It’s always an interpretation of what really happened in that moment to you and that will be drastically different interpretation that other people have in the same room or the same space, but when you think back even more so, it’s not real reality. It’s not happening right now. It’s not some kind of a thing that’s indisputable that everybody shared it in an exact way. And so we use memories of events in the past. Oftentimes we hold on to these in a way that is diminishing our present moment and that is taking away from future potential. We’re creating these stories about ourselves, about all the bad things that happened to us that now have diminished us in some way and are taking away opportunities from us or chances or whatever. And this is particularly strong. I think that that was the case when Hiten and I talked about this, we had a private conversation about it in a coffee shop. Our private conversations are very rare. Most of our conversation, the vast majority of our conversations, happens publicly on this spot.


Hiten Shah: Right here, right here. Right now.


Steli Efti: Right here, right now. So it’s very rare that we have a conversation that’s not recorded and published. But that was one of them. And we talked about people in our lives and I think that’s what made Hiten share the idea of it’s all a dream. We’re all holding onto these things that happen in the past in some kind of way that influence how we feel and how we act and how we see ourselves and others right now. But we don’t have to, if we understand that this shit is all dream, we can just all let go of this, of what happened and focus on the now. A lot of weight and a lot of burden can be lifted. And there’s another quote, funnily enough, I didn’t share that with you then, but I want to share it now with everybody. One of my favorite quotes, and I have to find who said it. Boom. I got it here. Remarque. I don’t know exactly how to say his name. R-E-M-A-R-Q-U-E. Probably some older Roman or something, but the quote is more important. The quote is, “To forget is the secret of eternal youth. One grows old only through memory. There’s much too little forgetting.” I love this. This is so dope. There’s much too little forgetting. We’ll only grow old through memory. Yeah. What a beautiful way of thinking and feeling. You probably haven’t … It’s not just me that you shared this with. Is it typically in relation with … Does it typically relate to the relationships people have with other people or the struggles they have with relationships or to their self image and the story? When does this, “It was all a dream” come up most frequently in conversations for you?


Hiten Shah: Yeah. I’d say it’s in one of three conversations. So one out of three conversation. So maybe like two or three times a week because I end up having a lot of conversations every week, besides this one, and it just comes up. I feel like people need to hear this. I feel like people need to be more lighthearted about their life, their past or whatever’s even happening right now because it will be all a dream. It is all a dream. It wasn’t just … It was all a dream. We are dreaming in every moment that we think we’re alive, and the reason we’re dreaming is think about all the stories you’re making up in your head in every moment. It’s like maybe when you meditate, maybe you’re not actually making any stories up. Maybe. But at the end of the day we’re like story machines. We’re making these things up in our heads. I just wanted a label for it. Let’s just call it a dream then. It just comes up. It comes up because it’s in my head. It comes up in a way it’s like … It goes back to something I think you and I talked about in some episode about advice versus encouragement, right? And as I move towards encouragement, I’d rather say things that are going to sit in people’s heads that are not advice. This is encouragement. This is encouraging you to just treat life just in a more lightweight way, not take things so seriously. I wish, I really wish, I internalize this and understood this even six months ago, a year ago. And it’s just one of those things where it’s I’d rather walk into our walk around life pretending it’s a dream. It makes me feel like it’s full of more possibilities. It makes me feel like whatever’s happening or has happened isn’t as important as I thought it was. And a lot of people say, “Oh, only the present moment matters.” And one other thing I wanted to share about this, and it’s related and in a strong framework that I’m developing in my head about people. I think everybody has one of three ways of looking at the world naturally, and the three ways that are … They either are thinking about the past, the present, or the future, so for me it’s the past. In my head, when I have my thoughts, the past is what’s in my head first. And it’s not to say I don’t think about the present and I don’t think about the future. I think about both of those too. But where my head goes first is the past. When it comes to my wife, Amy, where her head goes is the present. And so I would say that, and and my co-founder Maria, I believe her head goes to the future constantly. This is just my belief. We haven’t talked about this concept and hopefully she doesn’t listen to that. You don’t ever have to talk about it. And so because if you work with me and we’re that close in a business relationship, you might not want to hear me talk about my philosophies about you. So just out of fairness, I hope she doesn’t hear it. Anyone who knows her that’s listening right now, please don’t tell her. But I feel like you should figure out where your primary focus is in your mind and your thinking, and that can help you with this concept of it was all a dream as well because then you can just stay more grounded. That’s another point here. It is nice to stay in the present and be present in the moment of where you are now. And if you’re thinking about the future a lot, it’s going to prevent you from being present to what you’re experiencing right now. If you’re thinking about the past, it’s going to also in the same way, but a different style, keep you away from the present because you’re just nostalgic about the past, at best, or regretful about the past at worst. And that sucks. So I really admire folks who are not like me, who focus on the present or the future. I like to surround myself. I like to surround myself with them because they drag me to the presence or they drag me to the future, and it’s so helpful. For example, with my business partner, Marie, it’s nice that she focuses on the future. It helps me do the same. With my wife, it’s nice that she focuses on the present. It helps me do the same because I am definitely very, very much my thoughts automatically go to the past and not in any good or bad way. It’s just where it naturally grabs me. I was talking to someone. And this was really helpful because they were going through some change and struggles in their business. They actually had a kind of a CEO switch out. They were the CEO, their co-founder is now the CEO, and you could be unhappy about it or you could have a really great attitude. And so the way he was struggling with it, I just explained this to him. He’s like, “Yeah, I’m focused on the past.” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s done. It’s gone. We don’t live there anymore. It was all a dream.” And so this is an example of when this comes up for me. It’s when somebody is really hung up on something, especially about the past. And when I say that it really clicks and it helps them move forward and it goes back to, “Hey, let’s encourage people, let’s not give them advice.” I didn’t give much advice to him. I just encouraged him because I gave him a perspective.


Steli Efti: Beautiful. If you’re listening, take one thing that comes to mind, one past experience that you are holding on to for whatever reason, and repeat the mantra: it was all a dream, and see how that maybe softens the memory up a little bit. Maybe it becomes more playful. Maybe it’s not as serious, as rigid, as factual. Maybe it’s just a dream, a thought, an idea, something that you are still thinking about in some way that you can think differently about today or not think about at all if you choose to. So I think this is it for us, for this episode. And if you’re wondering, yes, even this episode was probably all a dream.


Hiten Shah: Oh, God.


Steli Efti: Oh, God.


Hiten Shah: You went there.


Steli Efti: I had to, I had to.


Hiten Shah: Thank you. Thank you.


Steli Efti: Don’t worry about it. [crosstalk]. Next episode, everybody will be about landing page optimization or some other shit that is very practical, but …


Hiten Shah: We should talk about that. That’s a good one. [crosstalk]. That’s good topic too.


Steli Efti: But at this one, we had to go there. We had to go to places that are beautiful, magical, and put out there. That’s what The Startup Chat is all about. All right. This is it for us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon.