Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the power of encouragement.

Running a business is difficult. Every entrepreneur knows this. Difficult times are going to arise and sometimes, all we need is a bit of encouragement to get over these difficult times.

In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about the concept of encouraging others, why it’s so powerful,  why some people are better at it than others and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic

00:39 Why this topic was chosen.

02:03 An example of a fascinating Muay Thai trainer.

04:36 Hiten’s thoughts around encouragement.

05:07 How humans can be really insecure beings.

06:05 How humans are terrible at recognising when someone needs encouragement.

07:17 How talking things out can give us encouragement.

08:15 How encouragement is an interesting concept.

08:50 Why it’s important to become aware when someone needs encouragement.

09:32 The importance of encouraging each other.

3 Key Points:

  • Sometimes I can be quite critical with people and with myself.
  • I think anyone can use encouragement, in both ways.
  • Become aware when someone needs encouragement, and when you need it as well.


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 power of encouragement. And here’s the reason why I want to talk to you about this, Hiten. Well, there’s many reasons I want to talk to you about this. I think recently, I just saw something on social media that talked about, it doesn’t cost you a lot to be encouraging, but you could change somebody’s entire life. And there was some story attached to that that was beautiful, inspiring. And it made me think, how powerful encouraging others can be and how that’s still something that, in some ways I do a lot of in my life, but in other ways, I always feel like I’m not doing enough of, right? And sometimes I even have a difficult time because I can be quite critical with people as I’m with myself. So, just wanted to talk about this concept of encouraging others. Why is it so powerful? How do you do it and how do some people do it so well? I’ll give one other example that kind of has been lingering in the back of my mind. I think that plus seeing that story connected the dots in a way that made me think, I want to talk to Hiten about this. I’m sure he has something incredible to say and we’ll have a great discussion and I’ll learn a ton of things. So, people know that I’m crazy about martial arts. I’m a huge fan of Muay Thai, which is kind of the Thai-style Kickboxing. And so, there’s this guy, there’s many old legends of Muay Thai in Thailand, these older gentleman that used to be in the sixties, kind of the Muhammad Alis and kind of the superstars of the sport. There’s one of those guys, his name is Dieselnoi, who was a legend, unbeaten, this crazy legendary figure, but then sort of became forgotten, right? Because it’s not like with boxing, where it’s a worldwide audience and if you’re a superstar, everybody in the world knows you. And so in Thailand just kind of became forgotten and eventually a Westerner that I’m friends with, she kind of discovered him and started training with him, bringing him into gyms, promoting him heavily, creating video content around him, sharing kind of who he is with the world and kind of helped him rise up again in status in Thailand. And all these Westerners come now to train with him and he’s making a ton of money and he’s getting recognition and he’s living a much happier life. The one thing that I found really fascinating about this guy is that when you see him train people, and this is something that people also shared about and talked about that had trained with him multiple times, they would describe him as the type of coach and trainer that is incredibly intense, very, very demanding, but when he tells you to do things, he says it with such passionate belief that you can do them, that you want to live up to that, that you want to please him. And he apparently never gets tired of it. They were like, the first day would tell me, “Throw the knee this way.” And five days later, he’s still, for an hour, is screaming with passion to throw the knee that way. And at no time, does he ever seem deflated, cynical or giving up on me. He just never gives up on people. He’s just intensely screaming at them to do this with a passion of a man that believes they can, no matter how long it takes them to learn it. They were saying how this kind of intense encouragement, how powerful that was as a training concept. When I heard that, when I saw that, I was like, “Wow, this is not how I would coach people.” I think that in many ways, I’d be much more on the side of passionately encouraging, but if you’re a slow learner, I don’t know how much patient I have and when I would run out of it and when I would maybe be a bit more critical and cynical versus positively encouraging. So I think there is a lot to learn here for me in a lot to improve still, but this idea of encouraging people and how powerful it can be, it’s been roaming around my head. So there you go, the power of encouragement. That’s how the topic popped up today and I’m curious to hear your thinking around encouragement. Do you do this consciously? Is it a part of your daily ritual and habits? How do you think about this? What’s your take on it in general?


Hiten Shah: I think anyone can use encouragement, in both ways. Being encouraged by others and then encouraging others as well. And it’s wild. I’ll get into the negative side of it for a second, but the level of insecurity that exists as a human, that you have, even if you’re the most confident person, is pretty high. You might not share it with anyone if you’re the most confident person, but some of the most confident and sure of themselves people, I know, I get to talk to them at times when they’re not in that sort of normal mode of theirs and all they need is encouragement. That’s it. And that really is, I think that’s the thing that gets me every time about advice, feedback, interpersonal relationships, people asking for help, et cetera. As the person on the other side, who is looking to help somebody or is in a conversation, even if you’re not looking to help someone, you’re in a conversation, it’s kind of your job to identify what does this person need? Because as humans, I don’t think we’re very good at, especially when we’re caught up in something in our own heads or whatever and we need help, we’re not very good at recognizing it. And it’s almost a lifelong journey to recognize your bullshit, right? And this is incredible to me, how easy it is to be encouraging, yet how often we forget to do it for others and even try to figure out who can do it for you. So, I don’t think I was looking for encouragement, but yesterday I told somebody on my team, “Hey, I need some conviction on something.” And this is a person I know I can say that too. And either they understand what I mean, or they at least will listen and help me with this. So I talked to them and I’m talking to them. And I usually don’t go to them with a specific, “Hey, I need some conviction.” And I talked to them and we talked for a while. And then I forgot why we got on the call about the conviction thing. And then he brought it up at the end, not even at the end, but at one point he’s like, “Well, sounds like you have the conviction you were looking for.” I was like, “Oh yeah, I think I do.” But talking it out with him was really the key. And I think I got encouraged by him because I was talking it out and it’s somebody who’s got equal responsibility here and has a need to make sure that I’m convicted too and they are as well and it was fantastic. But really, could I have texted him and said, “Hey, I need some encouragement?” I mean, yeah. But did I? No. I asked him for something a little more specific for me, which is, I want some conviction on this, but really I needed some encouragement, honestly. I was having a day of a lot of inputs and it was kind of making me feel like I’m not sure. And he gave me the encouragement I needed, even by just asking, by just mirroring back and saying, “Hey, it looks like you got conviction. What do you need from me?” And I was like, “Oh, this is what I needed, I guess.” Right? And then we went into another convo. But it’s interesting. I think it’s a very important concept in a world where most problems that you have, especially business problems, are temporary. And they’re not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. Honestly, these days, I feel like not much, is that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, as long as you have your health. Period. And your family does. Period. But everything else, you can figure it out, you really can. I think those things are the hardest. And in this case, even in the current situation, the only thing I can say about this at this point is, becoming aware of when encouragement is what someone wants or needs. And at the same time becoming aware when you need that and finding your right way and right people that, you know can give you that if that’s what is kind of appropriate. And I used the word conviction yesterday with somebody, because it was about a business thing and all that, and it was a person I do business with. But there’s a lot of other kind of words you can use to replace encouragement or that replace encouragement. And I think he, with that word that I used, he realized I just need some encouragement. Because he asked me that question and I think he gave me that. And so I almost feel like that’s all we can do for each other. We can’t understand each other. We can’t really give each other real advice that we should expect someone else to take, but we can encourage each other. We can encourage each other to solve our own problems. We can encourage each other to continue when things are tough, personal, or work or whatever. We can definitely encourage each other. So, and I think that when you use that word and you think of it that way, your approach is kind. You are compassionate. You are not trying to tell someone what to do. You’re trying to help them figure out how to do what they need to do. And I think that’s the shift that happens when you think of it as encouragement. I mean, for a while, I’ve been saying this about advice, which is like, people just need encouragement, they don’t really need advice. They don’t even want it. And I don’t mean to say that in any negative way. Just as a quick note, over time I thought people needed advice. And I think I was right at the time because there was just less information out there. And Google was not the primary source, it was just a source. Now, Google is a primary source of information. You can get any information you want just by Google. It’s not even just incredible. You can argue that the iPhone changed the world or Google changed the world. But I think it’s a big debate and maybe not mutually exclusive. And when I think about it like that, and taking the advice thing, whether it’s personal advice or whatever, most of the advice is out there that you can get. And so what do people come to each other for? I think it’s encouragement.


Steli Efti: That’s super powerful, yeah. If you think about it, the thing that slows people down is not that they’re making all these wrong choices all the time, it’s that they don’t make the choice. It’s that they keep continue trying to find the right answer and feel overwhelmed or feel confused. It’s not that people take too much action and create too many learnings and too many iterations to get to a point. That’s not the issue. And so you’re right, I think a lot of times when people seek advice, what they really are seeking emotionally is feeling good enough about what you’re about to do, that you’re going to go and do it, right? And believe in it. And so when you just purely play this as a cognitive game and what is the right formula that if you give it to me, I’ll know instinctively, it’s the right one, I’ll go and execute on it with energy and immediacy. I think it’s really the, I just want to feel that I can do it and what I’m planning to do could work and that I should go and attack that plan, right? Whatever it is. And there’s so many stories of this. So I think one, there are so many stories and maybe, I was thinking about this in my mind. There’s stories of somebody just saying a kind word or giving you a word of encouragement or words of encouragement at some point that was kind of for the outside world a meaningless exchange, but that kind of changed your life or changed the way you, or gave you the energy to go and do something you wouldn’t have done otherwise. And you can still remember that person and you can still remember the moment that person said this encouraging thing to you. But to them, it was just just being nice to somebody. They didn’t realize how impactful their words were. And there’s so many examples of that, just saying a kind word can really change somebody’s whole life, can make somebody stop from committing the biggest mistake of their life or from doing something terrible or give them the energy to do something really beautiful or incredible. But the other thing that you said that I wanted to bring up, because it’s not something I thought about, which is usually why I like to talk to you, because you’ll bring up something that I’ve not,


Hiten Shah: Likewise.


Steli Efti: That I wouldn’t have thought about, is the flip side of, I mean, maybe there’s two questions here. One is who am I in the best position to encourage right now in life, right? Who are the people that my encouragement would mean the most or would have the most impact or that I know need encouragement the most because they’re maybe lacking in that area? Who could I take responsibility for in the sense of, or take the opportunity for to say, these are the people that I’ll invest in encouraging because I can? And then on the flip side, who encourages me, right? Wow. That’s a good question. Who is the type of person, who is the person or the people in my life that encourage me when I need it, when I need it. And that’s a question, it’s also a good one to know the answer to, right? I think intuitively we probably gravitate to these people at times, but maybe we lack, I think especially entrepreneurs and many, many founders, sometimes we’re so used to being the solution machines, right? There to solve things for ourselves and others and to be strong, perceived or otherwise, internally and externally, that we are the kind of people that others seek for encouragement, for advice for help. And we are undertraining the muscle of seeking help, seeking advice or this case, seeking encouragement. Encouragement might be even trickier because I think founders and entrepreneurs, that at some point that was a cultural shift where it’s totally fine to ask for advice as a founder, but is it fine to ask for encouragement, right? That’s an interesting one. Shouldn’t you as a founder be so burning in your convictions that you don’t really need anybody to tell you that you can do it? Maybe there’s a bit more of a stigma around that, but I think that’s such a powerful question to ask, who are the courageous people in my life? Who are the people that I can go to when I need encouragement? And even having the awareness when we need it, right? And I feel like it’s easy to be confused personally, when you think maybe, what you need is advice or what you need as a “solution”? When what you really just need, is some words of encouragement from somebody that you can, because that’s also the point. It needs to be somebody that is not going to only say the words or encourage you, but then you’re going to believe and want to receive it from, right? So who is that person or who are these people in your life? That’s a beautiful question. I wouldn’t have thought about that at all. And now it’s going to keep me up at night and I’m going to be like, who are these people? And you’re definitely one of them, but-


Hiten Shah: I’ll take that. I am happy to be that for you and whoever else needs it. I think that it’s so important. And I got to say it takes you as an individual getting out of your own head for you to be actually able to encourage somebody else. And I think that’s what makes it hard. That’s why it’s not common. And that’s why when you experience it from somebody else, you’re like, wow. And because that’s what you needed at that time and you just kind of find the person, who can provide that, or you don’t. And when you do, it can come out of nowhere sometimes. I mean, this is also, the thing I like to say about this and it’s coming up for me as I think about it, this is why you go to your parents for advice. This is exactly why do you go to your mom. This is exactly why you go to your dad. Because at the end of the day, for many of us, those are the people in our lives that encouraged us the first time as kids.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: That’s why you might go to a older sibling too. Right? If you’ve had that kind of experience with them. I would say that when you go to parents with problems, it’s kind of a weird thing. But when you go to parents and just talk about something, you’re really usually looking for encouragement in this same kind of framework and in the way of thinking that we’re going after. So I feel like there is somebody in everyone’s lives that they can go to. They might just not think of what those people provide them as encouragement when I think it really probably is.


Steli Efti: Yeah. Beautiful. All right, this is it from us for this episode. Again, as Hiten said, our offer stands as a duo, if any of you are like, “You know what? I could use some encouragement right now in my life”, send us an email.,, we’d love to be that for you if you don’t have anything or anybody else that you could share that with. Even if you do, we’d love to encourage you. And until next time, we’ll see you very, very soon.


Hiten Shah: See you.