Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the lack of mastery in inner work.

As humans, we all are experiencing life differently, and these experiences shape who we are and mould us into what we are at any given time. Although some of us would love to master our shortcomings, it is an ongoing situation, and mastering inner work is the type of work that never ends.

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about how your strength can be your weakness, how inner work is the type of work that never ends, why you shouldn’t dehumanize your heroes and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:48 Why this topic was chosen.

01:01 How your strength can be your weakness.

03:04 How inner work is the type of work that never ends.

04:05 How inner work can feel like a never-ending onion.

05:21 How what you are today will always keep changing.

06:22 Why you shouldn’t dehumanize your heroes.

07:12 How Jeff Bezos is a human.

08:47 Why there’s no mastery at the end of the tunnel.

09:51 How long it took for the Steli and Hiten to realise they were full of shit.

3 Key Points:

  • There’s no mastery in inner work.
  • Inner work is the type of work that never ends
  • Your strength is your weakness.


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 the lack of mastery in inner work. So, here’s what I want to briefly chit-chat with you about and kind of unpack with you for the audience. Recently, I had a very intense kind of weekend session with a good friend of mine, where we did a lot of what I would call inner work, just very introspective work of what’s going on in our lives and what are the challenges? What are the limitations? What are possible blind spots? We had some very deep, very, very intense, very good and honest conversations with each other. Then there was one moment where my friend looked at me and was like, “Wow,” because I’d brought up something that I’ve just recently gotten to realize about myself and how surprising that was, because it didn’t fit my self-image at all. I was like, “I’m so surprised that I am this way.” It would have been- [crosstalk]


Hiten Shah: But I am. And I know.


Steli Efti: But I am. Now I know like, “Wow.” And then it was like, “Wow, I’m mind blown,” especially, I wouldn’t have expected you having this kind of a surprise revelation because you have such a master of inner work. And I was like, in that moment, my response was like…


Hiten Shah: Feel like that but not really.


Steli Efti: No, I’m like… I think I said verbatim and then I thought, “Oh, I should tweet this someday.” And then the world, it started exploding…


Hiten Shah: Wooh, yeah.


Steli Efti: So I’m just thinking about, I just kept it to myself. But he was like, “You’re such a master of inner work.” I’m like, “There’s no mastery in inner work. This isn’t mastery.”


Hiten Shah: None. Sorry. That’s good. That’s good.


Steli Efti: “This doesn’t exist. There’s nobody that has a black belt. You don’t remember how many books you read. I don’t remember how much I’ve analyzed.”


Hiten Shah: No. No. No. No.


Steli Efti: “You’ll never figure the shit out.” And I think that that’s what I wanted to talk about a little bit, because I think…


Hiten Shah: That’s great. Great topic.


Steli Efti: I see this with myself a lot, Hiten. I see this with some of my smartest, wisest, most successful friends. Your strength is your weakness. The thing that you spent a lot of time around…


Hiten Shah: Absolutely.


Steli Efti: Right? Is now cleaning a false sense of confidence. “Oh, I know this topic. Oh, I know myself in this way. Oh, I’ve done the work. I got the black belt. I’ve put in the years. I’ve accomplished mastery in whatever, in understanding myself or human psychology, or whatever, whatever, whatever.” And then it’s like the moment you believe that is the day that you’re a white belt again, and you’re starting to make all these mistakes and your viewpoint is distorted and you mess up. You really mess up. And so I wanted to talk about that idea that inner work is the type of work that never ends. It just never, ever ends. If you’re curious enough and if you’re honest and open enough, you should consistently get these holy shit surprise moments where you’re like, “I can’t believe this is me. How could I miss this?”


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: “For 40 years, I’ve been analyzing myself. And I just now realized that this is who I am. And this is why I do certain things the way I do them, or this is how I really feel about certain things. There’s no stopping. There’s no stopping to that. Which I think is a very uncomfortable feeling because we all like… We’re all lazy in a way where we like the idea that if we put a lot of effort in something, we’ll get really good at it. And then we can try… [crosstalk]


Hiten Shah: Well, it’s hard to see the progress. That’s part of it, right?


Steli Efti: Yeah. Yeah.


Hiten Shah: So the analogy that many people use for this is like the idea that you’re peeling an onion.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: There’s always another, it is a never ending onion. There’s always another layer underneath that you’re missing until you peel the existing one. And that those moments are fantastic. There is no mastery here, no matter who you are. And there are some people that kind of put it out there in a way as if they have mastered it or they appear to have mastered it. And you usually don’t know unless you know them, but they haven’t.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: I’ll pick on Naval for that.


Steli Efti: Okay.


Hiten Shah: I don’t think… I’ve never heard him say he’s mastered it.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: But the way he espouses philosophy, modern philosophy, it makes you kind of think like he has. And having mastered some of the things that I know he hasn’t… I know he hasn’t. Just when I look at some of those tweets, I’m like, “Yeah, okay. You’re working through your own version of this.”


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: I think one I find particularly interesting is how many people are doing his, he doesn’t even call it a challenge, but how many people are doing his meditation challenge. And a lot of that has to do with just how confident, how competently someone’s speaking.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: That makes you feel like they mastered it. So I bet your friend probably thought you had mastery because you speak really confidently.


Steli Efti: Yeah. Yeah, I do.


Hiten Shah: And so does Naval, right? Extremely competently, like he knows all the answers and he gives you that feeling and vibe. And I know you do that too. And I think that has a lot to do with people thinking you have it all figured out. Nobody really has it all figured out. And I’ve said this a lot. I keep saying, I don’t think anyone knows any.


Steli Efti: No.


Hiten Shah: And what you know, there’s so much more to know. And what you know is what you know today. What you are is what you are today. And that can easily change. And that changeability, that flexibility, I think, is the mastery itself. That even that openness to know that I don’t know anything, as much as I either think I know or I’ve been through, or I know, there’s so much more to know, and there’s so much more that’s going to happen and so much of it in unexpected ways. A lot of these learnings also come in the weirdest ways. I got to say that because the way that you’re just really… That’s what it took for me to figure that out. Oh no.


Steli Efti: Yeah. I think this is a really important point though that you’re highlighting. I feel like we have… For all that we do, I think we both put a lot of effort in every exchange that we have with people and try to stress that point that we’re full of shit and we don’t know. Nobody else knows either. I think that we are all… I think we talked about this in an episode where we said, “Don’t dehumanize your heroes,” right? Where you think that there’s people that figured out life and are superhuman in the way they live life. And so you create all this stress on trying to be like them, but if you really knew them, you’d know that yeah, they might be a bit better at certain things, a bit more experienced in certain areas, but they’re so full of shit. Maybe in some areas where you mastered life, they’re like little children, right? And you just don’t want-


Hiten Shah: Yeah. Yeah.


Steli Efti: To me, one of my favorite example recently had always been Jeff Bezos because I admire him as a founder and CEO. I think he’s one of the, if not the best, CEO Founder of our job…


Hiten Shah: That we have today, yeah.


Steli Efti: That we have for sure. But for them, when the whole affair thing and divorce thing broke out…


Hiten Shah: It humanized him.


Steli Efti: It humanized it in a way where I was telling people, “Listen, even if this all isn’t right, we don’t really know everything that’s going on.” But if you look at some of the behavior of somebody like that, when it comes to the opposite sex, right? Or an affair or something, you can see a… If you read those text messages, you can see a more insecure little teenager, not like a super wise…


Hiten Shah: That’s right. [crosstalk]


Steli Efti: Kind of a billionaire that is a master of industries. You see a little teenager who is in love and horny and doesn’t know how to deal with both of these things.


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: And that makes perfect sense. If you have a super brain like this person who might very early focused on using your brain and you haven’t developed other areas of your life, and maybe now is going through a phase where he’s discovering these and he’s like, “Oh my God, I have all these feelings in my body. And I’m interested in this woman or whatever.” And all of a sudden, he’s sending dick pics around like a little child, right? Not as wise, not the master of industry, not writing like a super genius, but writing like a giddy little boy, right? And that doesn’t mean that he’s dumb. That doesn’t mean that everything he’s done is nothing. Just means he’s a human. He’s a human who might have flaws. If I have flaws on areas… [crosstalk]


Hiten Shah: Maybe just to feel, yeah.


Steli Efti: And this is so true for everybody. And I feel like it’s so important, especially with people that are listening to us, podcasts like these “experts” like us where, I think, if we can misspell this idea that there’s mastery at the end of the tunnel, that there’s some kind of a different version of life, if you only accomplish X… Oh, if I only… Yeah, at that successful startup, if I only make a million… On a stage, if I only be invited to be interviewed on big podcast… If I only whatever… Then I’m going to be a different type of human. I’m going to have mastery over some of these things that consist of human life. And then I’m not going to have to feel so overwhelmed at times, so so difficult. I think that chase is a heartbreaking one because then you accomplish these things, you don’t feel that different or you have not now figured out life in its entirety, and now you feel like a fraud and you’re trying to hide that fact, right? Now, you’re trying to maybe convince yourself that you have figured everything out because I should have, because now I’m already a very successful farmer. And that sets people down a path that is, I think, heartbreaking and wasteful and doesn’t have that much beauty versus… I don’t know when it happened. Well, let me ask you before we wrap up this episode. Did you always knew how full of shit you were? Because it took me a minute. But did you have a moment where you really realized that? I’m just curious, how the journey was for you?


Hiten Shah: I think underneath the surface, I always had this belief that everybody’s full of shit so that made it easier for me to believe I’m full of shit too. But that was underneath, right? So no, this was a journey, but I always… The one thing about me is, I truly think everyone’s full of shit. Like literally, they don’t know what they’re saying. They just know what they’re saying right now, right? They just know what they know right now. They don’t really know much else. And I just have a strong belief towards that. Right or wrong, whether you agree or not, that’s just what I believe. And so that was there, but then kind of putting it on myself and being like a mindful of shit, that I think that’s a harder one. And that took longer to really just come up with, but it was easier just because I do have this attitude that I think everyone’s full of shit. There’s such limit, like everyone just has their own experiences. They’re limited. They’re different. And you don’t get along with everyone, right? You’re just not supposed to. That’s not what this is, this kind of living is about. It’s about making decisions, about having opinions. It’s about changing. It’s about evolving. So, yeah, I feel like there’s a lot of people out there that come across like they have it together or come across like they don’t. And a lot of this… I think one of the biggest things, and I know this is really weird of a word to say on this, but I feel like it made me less judgemental by being judgmental about everybody, if that makes sense, right? Because it just made me… It just like, “Oh yeah. That person. That’s just how they feel right now. That’s just their strong opinion right now.” And I don’t have to agree with it. I think part of it is also the freedom to not to disagree. And that was a big part of it for me. But that was me. I don’t know other people’s sort of experiences with this sort of concept. I just know mine, which is this belief.


Steli Efti: Everybody’s full of shit. I love that. There’s one of the things I think that connects us because I am very much on board with it… Religion.


Hiten Shah: [crosstalk 00:00:12:40].


Steli Efti: But it happened later in life for me.


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: I do think that, growing up, I definitely had this hope. There are people that figure this shit out and I want to be part of that group and I didn’t, so I was like, I’m just trying… [Crosstalk]


Hiten Shah: Right. Right. Yeah, but…


Steli Efti: Trying to study who are these people? What the fuck did they do?


Hiten Shah: I was going to say, yeah, based on your upbringing and that bookstore. Yeah. That’s kind of expected. I wouldn’t have expected anything else.


Steli Efti: And then, it was a gradual process where I started being surrounded by some people that were very successful, thankfully, very early, financially successful, very early.


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: And then I was like, “Wait a second. These people are full of shit.”


Hiten Shah: Yeah, they just know what they know.


Steli Efti: And then I were like, “Hey. Yeah, I’m full of shit too. Ha.” And that started the journey of realizing, “No, there’s nobody that figured that shit out. We’re all full of shit.” All right. So there’s many ways to do this. What’s the right way for you? But it took me a minute to get there, for sure.


Hiten Shah: Okay.


Steli Efti: All right. Well, there is no mastery inner work, but inner work never ends so…


Hiten Shah: Nope.


Steli Efti: We, for sure, will try to be part of your journey.


Hiten Shah: Yeah.


Steli Efti: Stay safe. Stay saint. And we will hear you very soon.


Hiten Shah: Talk to you later.