In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten try to answer the question, what color is boredom?

One of the most important roles of a parent is helping your kids get through school. Sometimes, they may act in a way that doesn’t align with the system of the school, which could land them in trouble, and how you deal with the aftermath of that situation can make a huge impact on your child.

In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about how to handle awkward situations with kids in school, the importance of following the rules, lessons Steli’s wants his kids to learn and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:37 Why this topic was chosen.

03:52 How to handle awkward situations with kids.

05:40 How Hiten handles tricky situations with his kids.

06:42 The importance of following the rules.

05:00 How Steli handles tricky situations with his kids.

09:09 Why Steli enables his kid to experience the real world.

10:24 Lessons Steli’s wants his kids to learn.

10:50 Why Steli doesn’t care so much if his kids go to college.

11:10 Hiten’s experience in high school.

3 Key Points:

  • I like treating kids like adults as much as possible.
  • There are different views in the world.
  • My wife a more difficult time with conflict.


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 try to answer the question, “What color is boredom?” So, for you Hiten, you have no idea what I’m talking about and our listeners. Let me set this up a little bit. Another way of describing this, today’s episode is how to help your children get through school, especially if they’re getting into trouble all the time. So here’s the situation. I’m just curious to hear and discuss and digest this with you. And I feel like I could see a lot of entrepreneurs and startup people out there, at least those that have children, to have to go maybe through a similar experience, so they might benefit from this discussion. So, my oldest, I have two boys, my oldest is currently going through second grade and he has now started to get into daily trouble in school. And just recently he was thrown out of the class, a classroom. And when he explained to me what happened, it was very hard for me not to laugh. So he was telling me that the teacher was describing to them that colors could be an expression of emotions. So she was describing that red, for instance, could be love, could also be anger. And she was going through a couple of colors and what their emotional meanings could be. And then my son decided to raise his hand and ask, “What color is boredom, because I’m very bored right now?”


Hiten Shah: Wow.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: Wow. Wow.


Steli Efti: That got him thrown out of the classroom. And now, not to defend my son too much, because he can be a smart ass. Right. I don’t know who has got that from. He definitely has that from me. But, in this specific case, for all his smart assness, he is surprisingly honest sometimes and sweet. And so, he told me afterwards that he actually really didn’t know why that was a bad thing, and he was actually curious. And then we proceeded to Google search what color boredom is, and we couldn’t quite get a definite answer to this question. But we landed on maybe beige, maybe brown, we weren’t sure. But that was a funny encounter. But he’s getting into trouble all the time with teachers. And so now we’re in this situation where I now, for the first time, have to figure out, as a parent that may or may not completely believe in the principles that the teachers have that my son is in class with, when he gets in trouble with school or with his teachers, what do I do? Do I just completely take myself out of it? Do I support him? Do I support the school? What do I do? In general, I’m not the biggest fan of the school he’s in and the teachers there. It’s a nice place, but I don’t fully agree with the way that they think about things, obviously. So I’m like, how do you handle this? How do you do this? And I have a little bit of a philosophy in a way of thinking about this, but I thought it might be fun for the two of us to jam on it since you are ahead of me when it comes to children in schools. Your children might be, or probably are, better behaved and definitely better behaved than my children apparently. But I was just curious in terms of your philosophy as somebody that may at times disagree with what the teachers will try to teach your children or the way that a school system is set up and designed. What’s your philosophy on encouraging, discouraging, or completely keeping yourself out of it? How do you deal with supporting or dealing with your kids in school as somebody that may think differently from a lot of the ways that teachers might think in the school that your children are with?


Hiten Shah: Yeah, I think it’s an interesting one. The worst thing that my kid has done so far is my son… My daughter’s five, so she’s still figuring it out. And we’ll probably have some interesting times ahead. And my son is nine, so he’s figured a bunch out. Was he would talk a lot in class, and the teachers basically took care of that because the next year they split up all those kids that were talking to each other. So he didn’t get to hang out with his friends in class anymore because they were talking too much together. So, they’re still friends, but they’re not the same kind of friends anymore. Right? Because we’re talking about second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade. That’s the level, an area. I think he’s in fourth grade right now, if I’m not mistaken. And so, basically I like treating kids like adults as much as possible. And in this context, for me, I would explain to my child, “This is what the teacher said, this is what you said, and this is why this happened, just so that you know, objectively, why this happened.” And make everything just a lesson and a teaching moment and let them make decisions for themselves, and be like, “If you keep doing things like that where you’re essentially trying to outsmart your teacher, you’re going to keep getting in trouble. So it’s not that you shouldn’t think like that or anything like that necessarily because I think there’s a really great quality to it. But you should use it for good, not bad. And you should use it to not get in trouble, because getting in trouble is bad.” Right? And then, at the same time, I would encourage the creativity, because I think he was very creative, what he did, and what your son did. And I think it’s actually pretty… It made me laugh still. It’s like, “Oh, that’s really good.” And in terms of the way that the teachers teach and disagreeing with them, I think it’s a moment and a way to teach a child there are different views in the world, and that’s okay. And that’s good. That’s a good thing. And if you don’t agree with it, then, in the current environment you’re in, you can’t do anything if you don’t agree with it. You don’t have any power over changing things in this scenario because you’re in school, you’re there to learn, and the teacher is the equivalent of your boss. Right? And not just you have to do what they say, but you have to follow the rules because you’re in a system that has rules. Maybe when you grow up, if you don’t want a system that has rules, you want to make your own rules, there are ways you can do that. And then I would say, “Look at your father. I make my own rules as much as I can. That’s why I run a company and I started a company.” You know? So I think all these things are just teaching moments and ways to help children understand the world. That’s my take on it.


Steli Efti: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I think that it’s funny in the dynamic between me and my wife. Obviously, she has, to be fair to her, she is more impacted because oftentimes teachers will reach out to her or she will have to engage with them first before I get too involved in any of this. And my wife just has a more difficult time with conflict and feeling a bit ashamed or feeling a different type of protective of our son than I do. But, for my wife, this is usually much more overwhelming and, “Why don’t we put our children in a school that has much better principals and teachers that are thinking more aligned with the way we think.” But my thinking is that this is the real world. Right? And of course I get the appeal of putting your children in some kind of a “super school,” where teachers are these amazing human beings and they are up to date with the best, newest ways of teaching children and they empower creativity, individuality, and all that. And of course that’s awesome, but at the same time it’s not a really good reflection of the world at large. And so, I feel like my stance was always like, my children, they are pretty lucky. They have a pretty good setup at home and they have parents that can hopefully share a lot of things with them and are very encouraging. And so if they’re in a school environment that is not as encouraging, not as creative, not as aligned with our values, that’s actually a good thing that enriches their experience of the world. And now they can build the skill of how do you deal with these situations where maybe you’ll disagree with a teacher, but as you said, you are now in a environment where you don’t have the power to actually act out on all your thoughts or where you’re not running the show. And you just have to know how to play the game and get along and get by and progress without letting others suppress your ideas or your personality, but without having to completely check out or confront or create trouble, because that will not get you anywhere in many, many different situations. So, to me, my children or my kid being in a class with a teacher that I don’t think is this amazing human being that can teach my children a huge amount, that’s not a bad thing because they can teach them other things. They can teach them how do you deal with a bad boss? How do you deal with conflict? How do you deal with understanding your place, and how much power you have and how to play the cards that you’re dealt with? And also understanding do you want to be right or do you actually want to have a good life, and do you want to get ultimately what you want versus just being “right?” And so, I’m not as concerned as my wife about all this. I take it much more lightheartedly, but I also understand that it’s easier for me. It’s much easier for me to do that. But it’s funny and it’s like, recently, a couple of times randomly I was asked from people how much I care about my children getting a college degree education and going to an Ivy League school and getting a really great diploma. And, obviously, I barely made it to kindergarten. I didn’t go through college. I didn’t go to any great school. And so, my view is skewed by my personal experiences, but I really don’t care. There’s certain jobs where I feel like my children would have to do really, really well academically. Do you want to be a doctor? You probably won’t be able to do open heart surgery without studying very hard and getting very good grades.


Hiten Shah: Right.


Steli Efti: But there’s other jobs where it doesn’t matter as much. Hopefully I can instill a love for learning and discipline and work ethic and lots and lots of other good skills onto them. But do they need to go to college? And do they need to have amazing grades? For me, personally, no. And it’s funny that the people that asked me were surprised when I told them that, because they felt like maybe a lot of people that don’t get to experience that when they’re young, maybe they want that for their children. Like a lot of immigrants want their children to do really, really well in school. But I personally couldn’t care less. But how about you? I think that you are the type of person that people would imagine you were amazing at school, but I’m not sure, I think you were a little bit of a trouble maker as well.


Hiten Shah: Yeah. I definitely had a little bit of class clown in me. And I just knew I could get away with a lot without doing a lot of work. So I was definitely not trying to do… I think it was the second I hit high school, I don’t… Well, I think it was sophomore year onwards, I think I cared a lot less about getting straight A’s and stuff like that. I’d still get pretty good grades and get away with it, but I was okay with an occasional B and whatever, even though my dad was probably not as okay, but he didn’t complain a lot. So, yeah, I definitely was happy to be disruptive at times and say things that made the class laugh but made the teacher kind of pissed off. So I definitely did that in high school quite a bit more than people might imagine. I also would come up with really creative ways to cheat. Because this was before computers and all that good stuff. So writing really tiny and then creating a slot in your pen so you could rotate and get answers. Or I would cut out the pen, like a window in the pen, and put a paper there that I could just twist and see a bunch of notes during a test, stuff like that. Yeah, my go-to was always small, handwritten stuff. And just because I could. And then I wouldn’t have to study as much or whatever. I think those were fun things. Even in college, I’ve had so many experiences where I would still wake up, and this has stopped happening thankfully, but I would wake up and the dream that I had would be about having a test and not studying for it. And it’s been a recurring nightmare, basically, for me. And that’s because it happened at least 10 or 20 times in college. And even worried about… I don’t think I stepped foot in class that much in college either. I just went at the days I needed to because there was something view or something like that. Just so many things like that, for some reason, that I just experienced. So, yeah, I’m definitely not as good of a student and studious the way that people might think.


Steli Efti: People might think. What about your children? Do you have any ambition standards you would set, expectations you have on them when it comes to how they are going to do in school?


Hiten Shah: Yeah. So, I think the deal I have with my wife right now is, because she really studies hard and used to study really hard and would stay up as late as she could before a test and all that stuff, and that’s her style. I think she’s basically responsible for those aspects of their lives. And then, as they grow up a little bit more, the responsibility is going to fall more on me. So that’s kind of the deal we have, because she knows I’m not going to sit there, and I would teach them things of how to cheat the system without cheating the system more than I would… I wouldn’t teach them how to cheat, I think they’ll figure that out on their own if they want to, or they won’t. But I would definitely teach them the short cuts as much as I could, which is not necessarily how the teachers want you to teach your kids the stuff that they want you to teach them. I have a lot of respect for teachers and their ways regardless of whether I agree or not. And my kids go to public school at the moment. So, yeah, I like to conform to what they want as much as possible until the day comes when the kids don’t need to worry about that stuff.


Steli Efti: Beautiful. That makes a ton of sense. Well, all right, I don’t know. Well, let’s wrap this episode up with your answer to this question, and maybe you have a better answer than I could come up with. But what do you think, Hiten, what color is boredom? What would you guess? What would you say? What’s the first color that comes to mind?


Hiten Shah: Black.


Steli Efti: Black?


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: Very interesting. Okay.


Hiten Shah: Yeah. Black.


Steli Efti: Black. All right, my man. That’s it from us for this episode. We will hear all of you very, very soon.


Hiten Shah: Later.