Inner Work with Steli Efti

Steli Efti

The (strictly no-business) podcast that shall never become yet another to-do item in a busy CEOs life. A storytelling playground and save space for irresponsible experimentation. We willll talk martial arts, ponder the nature of life, have conversations with weirdos and misfits, shamelessly fail in public, and share what we learn along the way.

All Episodes

There's a German word I really love: Bewunderung. It's commonly translate as 'admiration', but that doesn't quite capture the full meaning of the word. In this episode, I talk about the art of keeping and cultivating a sense of wonder about life, and the people in your life. Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Dec 4

29 min 36 sec

I've now been studying Internal Family Systems (IFS) for a long time, and it's taught me so much about myself that I decided to take an online course on it. But I don't really want to learn more about IFS to know IFS. I want to learn more about IFS so I can use it for my own inner work. And so rather than mastering the theory of more aspects of IFS, I decided to instead really focus on applying what I learned to myself, and just do one exercise I found particularly helpful again and again—and it led to some surprising discoveries about myself.  Shownotes:  Connect with me:

Nov 28

39 min 1 sec

A lot of spiritual practices try to teach you to become something or someone else, achieve a certain state of being. But you don't need that. Inner work is not about getting to some magical place where everything will be different. It's about living your own truth. You already are what you need to become. You already know what you need to know. Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Nov 25

12 min 38 sec

We chat about a surreal short story by Michael Ende named "Einer langen Reise Ziel" (Destination of a Long Journey). It's the first story in his collection of short stories called Das Gefängnis der Freiheit (Prison of Freedom), and how "search and you shall find" might sometimes mean something very different from what we commonly assume. Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Nov 22

55 min 13 sec

I won't even try to describe what this episode is about.  Shownotes: Connect with me: 

Nov 21

46 min 23 sec

I've always been a very cerebral person, relying primarily on my intellect to achieve my goals and solve problems I encounter. For a very long time, I equated the mind with myself. I viewed the body as a vehicle that just carries my mind. But as I started getting more in touch with my feelings, I also started paying more attention to my body—and began to realize that it's so much more than just a vehicle. The body has it's own wisdom. Recently I decided to pay more attention to what my body tells me—and soon caught my mind pretending to be my body.  When you bring mind, body, and soul in harmony, when you connect the different parts within you, then you also become whole and feel more connected with everything around you.  Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Nov 16

47 min 51 sec

I've often used the words presence and awareness interchangeably—but they're really not. They're two distinctly different things, and in this episode, I discuss the difference, and talk about my recent experiments with awareness. Shownotes: Connect with me: 

Nov 12

59 min 1 sec

Here's a conversation we've had about Michael Ende, Author of The Neverending Story, Momo, and other great books. We then touched on the beauty of poetry and song lyrics, going on awareness walks, having 1-on-1's with my sons, how interpreting my mother's dream put my patience to the test, the difference between patience and persistence, turtles, being time-poor or time-rich, having a Momo moment, eating mindfully, reclaiming lost phone time, my new routine of doing nothing for 30 minutes in the morning, having richer experiences simply by being more aware, the hidden costs of multi-tasking, the power of doing 1 thing wholy, and how we can let random little items determine our path in life if we lack awareness. Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Nov 6

1 hr 24 min

How do you design your optimal morning? Every night as we sleep and dream, we enter a profoundly altered state of consciousness, we process and integrate our experiences of the day. Rather than immediately jumping into tackling tasks for the day, or distracting yourself with social media, build a set of morning rituals that become your transition from being asleep to being awake.  Shownotes: Connect with me: 

Nov 4

32 min

Apotomos is a Greek word that describes a person who always appears calm, keeps everything bottled up inside, and then at some point, when they can't take it anymore, they suddenly erupt like a vulcano in anger. One of my brothers is that kind of person. Very giving, very generous, gladly sacrificing his time or energy. Until eventually he realizes that the other person is not so much appreciating all these sacrifices, but rather expects them, and typically is unwilling to do the same for him. In this episode, I talk about this dynamic, unspoken expectations, what to do when we realize we're living out the same pattern in our relationships again and again, and that what a person learns is much more dependant on the student than the teacher. Shownotes: Connect with me: 

Oct 27

57 min 57 sec

It's so easy to lose yourself in all the things you "should be doing". It's so easy to come up with an endless list of things that would be good for your career, your wealth, your well-being. But if you do all these things, more often than not you'll end up climbing a ladder that leads you to the wrong place. There's a better way of choosing what you do: Do more of what gives you energy. Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Oct 17

27 min 46 sec

What you most reject is what holds the greatest potential for growth. Whether it's a feeling you don't want to feel, a person with whom you have a challenging relationship—it's typically what you want to avoid that reveals your deep truths. Which is one of the reasons why I try to embrace life's perfect imperfections and practice doing my inner work. When I wake up feeling down for no good reason at all, and nothing that I do gets me out of that funky state? Not the yoga, not the meditation, not the espresso, not going for a walk, not listening to music, not a conversation with a good friend. Rather than trying to not feel that feeling, or to "get over it", I try to embrace it. Work with it. Listen to what it has to teach me, and try to find my way of flowing in the stream of life.  Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Oct 15

23 min 47 sec

Imagine having a friend with a drinking problem. You can clearly see they're on a path that'll lead them down a bad road. You offer your help and invite them to stay with you in your home. You'll take care of them so that they can get their life together. Except, that your friend doesn't think they have a drinking problem. But you insist and convince them to accept your help. You house and feed them, find books, set them up with coaches and support groups... only to find that they keep drinking in your room while you're out working.  What do you think are the chances that this will actually end up helping your friend? And more importantly: What inner work are you avoiding in your own life by dedicating yourself to this unsolicited rescue mission? Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Oct 6

14 min 18 sec

Every year I want to change, evolve, level up. I hate stagnation, fear it. There's nothing more terrifying to me than the thought that I could have peaked already, that it's never going to be more than what is now. I still think that the wish to evolve and grow is fine. But being terrified of the possibility that this won't happen? What good does that do? So in this episode, I ponder the question whether I should try to make peace with the possibility that maybe there won't be any next levels for me. I also want to be the kind of person that has something to offer: whether that's entertaining stories, enlightening conversation, or valuable advice. When I meet friends, I feel a desire to give them something—even if it's just a good time. But sometimes being with friends is just about that: spending time together, without feeling responsible for making it a great time. Shownotes:  Connect with me:    Transcript:   
[00:00:00] One interesting conversation that I had with Basti in Greece was a conversation about the urge or need to be valuable for me. It's such as that. I mean, there's certain themes in my life, right? I always want it to be worthy and valuable and significant. And I also want it to always be impressive. Like impressing people was important, living a significant life. 
[00:00:27] Was always important feeling like my life is valuable that I'm using this gift and doing things with it, that it seemed worthwhile. That always, as far as I can remember, was very important to me. And for the past, maybe 20 years, I have talked and shared this theme and we talked about this the very first time we talked about doing an old. 
[00:00:49] The project was in Thailand in the car and we're debating who the fuck is, Steli FD and where's the journey going next and what do I have to offer to the world? And what do I care about? What makes me special? [00:01:00] And I remember us talking a lot about this drive that I have for growth and change. And I've always talked about this theme that if I look back at the last year, And I don't think Steli a year ago was an idiot and didn't know shit. 
[00:01:14] It makes me afraid. It brings a certain type of panic to me because it makes me feel like, well, I guess I've wasted. I, nothing has happened. Like I still think the stuff that I thought a year ago. Well two years ago is right. And a more or less the same person that terrifies me. That means nothing really of significance has happened in my evolution. 
[00:01:34] I mean, we talked about me being a bit more self aware sometimes of some of the funnier versions of this, right? Some of the things that seem less valuable, like being in the pool, playing with my children, but then staying long in the pool so that other people see how amazing of a dad I am like that kind of. 
[00:01:49] And I've noticed it more, more present. So more often than not, I could tell sometimes these little moments where I would consider how I would be [00:02:00] perceived by others an hour from now or tomorrow morning or something else. And then I would have to tell myself, well, who gives a fuck? Just relax. Right. Just relax. 
[00:02:09] So Boston comes to visit me and Sophia and the day busty showed up. His flight was arriving at like 6:00 PM in Greece. And my mother was visiting in the morning to spend a day with me in the city in Greece. And I woke up and instantly I could tell that I was super nervous in the morning. It's another feeling that it's so funny. 
[00:02:29] I felt this feeling so much in my life in so crazy now to me, that I never realized that I was

Oct 2

17 min

Ever since reading Carl Jung, I got interested in dream interpretation, but most of the time I don't feel like interpreting my dreams. A dream I recently had though made me think that there was a message waiting for me. So in this episode, I go through the exercise of decoding my dream. Shownotes: Connect with me: 

Sep 27

24 min 58 sec

Oftentimes the people who think they need help the least are the ones that need it the most. I've always been a giver. I always loved to help others. But asking for, and receiving help, that was something I struggled much more with in some areas of my life. And I know plenty of people for whom this is true as well. So in this episode, I talk about the inner work involved in accepting that we need help when we do, and receiving the blessings that life sometimes has in store for us with humility and appreciation.  Shownotes: Connect with me: 

Sep 20

21 min 2 sec

After 100 episodes of intimate navel-gazing and serious inner work, it's time so start sharing some of the silly goofing around we do in between. Expect nothing meaningful from this episode. We're talking Jocko Willink, Charles Bukowski, the courage of degenerates, and the cowardice of choosing to live your life in the safe harbor of propriety. Shownotes: Connect with me: 

Sep 12

15 min 21 sec

I started paying more attention to the soundtrack of my live—that inner narator that constantly makes up stories about what it is I do. And I started experimenting with it: What if I change the narration? What if I switch it off? What if I give my narration a theme, so that whatever I do is viewed through and guided by that particular idea?  The way we talk to ourselves is a big part of inner work, and I revisit this area of my life every once in a while and learn something new, try something new, and more often than not am surprised by what I find. Shownotes: Connect with me: 

Sep 10

11 min 31 sec

Recently while on vacation in Greece I was looking for some more lighthearted literature and picked up Charles Bukowski's Ham on Rye. Well, let's say it wasn't exactly the feelgood read I sought, but the story of the potato chip friendship stuck with me. Shownotes: Connect with me: 

Sep 4

21 min 36 sec

First of all: My friend is not an insecure loser. He's an amazing person that I enjoy to spend time with and learn from. But he sometimes thinks that others think of him as a loser. And let's be honest: Deep down, most of us are scared on some level that we're losers. I'm very good at exuding confidence. I can walk into a room and people think I own it. But that's not always how I feel inside. And after spending a week with this dear friend in Greece, I discovered new layers of my own self-esteem. Shownotes: Connect with me: 

Aug 27

44 min 9 sec

I was recently on vacation with my family and shared a very special moment with my mother: For the first time in decades, I felt like the child of my mother—and her being my parent. I've stepped into the role of being her protector, coach, caretaker, and teacher for such a long time that I forgot what being a child even felt like.  Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Aug 20

42 min 18 sec

It was 2007, I had just moved to the US, when I received a call from my brother: My grandfather had died. I was his namesake, and his favorite grandchild. People always told me how much I came after him. He was a larger than life character, always believed that I was special, that I was destined for greatness. I had learned so much from him, and now he was gone. I felt terrible. And then somehow, I felt the desire to write him a last, final letter. In this episode, I re-read this letter for the first time in many years. Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Aug 15

28 min 2 sec

My youngest son has a seemingly insatiable desire for attention from his mom. Sometimes it escalates into awkward neediness, and it hurt me seeing my son feel this way. I tried to step in and "save" him from feeling this way—but to no avail. Only his mom's attention would do. And recently, I wondered: Why does this affect me so much? Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Aug 15

23 min 12 sec

In this episode I share my thoughts after reading Dostoyevsky's Crime And Punishment. A much more effortful, and less rewarding read than I had hoped, but I do love how deep it goes into the central theme of the story—which is what happens when we go against our own moral compass. Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Aug 11

38 min 16 sec

I've yet again learned about another part of myself: It's the part that I call The Endurer, and it's one of the parts that my core Self hasn't fully integrated, or even acknowledged enough. I like to highlights other parts of myself that seem more impressive and heroic. But much of inner work is seeing all of yourself, and often what you find is humbling. Shownotes: Connect with me: 

Aug 8

27 min 55 sec

"Lying is a delightful thing, for it leads to truth" wrote Dostoyevsky in Crime and Punishment. We discuss how you arrive at the truth through lying, and then about the twisted lies of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, how her insistence on denying her own truth eventually leads to her ending her life. Shownotes:  Connect with me:  

Aug 6

50 min 39 sec

Sometimes we don't learn from our mistakes at all, and we keep repeating them again and again. And sometimes we overcorrect our mistakes so much, that we just replaced one mistake with another mistake.  Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Aug 2

48 min 18 sec

I recently had a conversation with a friend who's been through a couple of challenging months. And as he shared his struggles with me, my initial response was to share how I in the past had overcome struggles similar to the one he had described. And now, the conversation was going well... but it wasn't really flowing. We weren't connecting as friends. It was more like a coaching session—but that wasn't the point of our conversation. I'm not his coach, he's not my mentee. We're friends. And as I noticed this, I switched gears. Rather than trying to present him solutions, I started to just share some of my own recent struggles. And that instantly changed the dynamic of our conversation. Now we were connecting as friends, just shooting the shit, laughing, having a great time—and funny enough, the impact of our conversation was probably much deeper than if we'd have continued down the "coaching call" path. Shownotes:  Connect with me:  

Jul 25

16 min 52 sec

This episode is an outtake from a conversation where I realized how I stifle my enthusiasm because I want to protect myself from the pain of embarrassment and disappointment. One of the greatest things about my younger self was how passionate I was about my dreams and goals (I talked about that in episode 82). I decided to stop hiding my enthusiasm, and embrace that sense of unfettered excitement. There's too much inner work to be done, and I can't let my fear of looking foolish get in the way. Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Jul 19

28 min 23 sec

Many years ago in the early days of Close, my cofounders and I would go out for dinner once a week to discuss the business. These discussions were good, but oftentimes they were just that: discussions. At some point, Anthony said: "Let's stop talking about all these different things and make a decision. What's one thing we can decide right now?" This was gamechanging for us, and in this episode, I share how I'm using a similar framework in my personal relationships and in my inner work. Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Jul 15

14 min 40 sec

One thing I love about Tolstoy's writing is with how much insight and empathy he's making the characters of his novels come alive. I learn so much about myself, and humanity in general by reading Anna Karenina, a novel written more than 100 years ago—much more than I've gained from reading a hundred books on psychology. In this episode, I'm geeking out on some of my favorite characters of the story, and like the beautifully lighthearted Oblonsky. Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Jul 10

1 hr 3 min

One of the most insightful books on managing anger I've read is The Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships, and in this episode I discuss the concept of overfunctioning and underfunctioning. Shownotes:  Connect with me:

Jul 7

15 min 3 sec

I grew up in Germany, and spent most of my life there. And yet, I never felt at home in Germany, never liked living there. If Germany was a family member of mine, it would be a heartless, cold, disapproving stepdad—that's how I'd describe it. But I don't want to feel that way. My family lives here, many of my friends live here, and whether I like it or not, Germany will be part of my life for the rest of my life. So in this episode, I'm wondering how I can improve my relationship with Germany? What kind of inner work will it take to make Germany a place that I like staying at? Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Jul 3

34 min 31 sec

I've been reading Tolstoy's Anna Karenina recently, and absolutely love this book for the sharpness with which he looks at relationships, and how people communicate. There's so much wisdom within these pages, about misunderstandings beyond repair, painful truths and the convenient lies we sometimes hope for. Shownotes: Connect with me: 

Jun 29

22 min 30 sec

There's a popular interview question I've been asked many times: What's one piece of advice you'd give your younger self? To me, a much more interesting question if I could travel back in time and meet my younger self would be: What could I learn from my younger self? In this episode, I share my thoughts around that, and in a way, I do meet a younger version of myself: By watching an interview Scobelizer did with me just after my arrival in the US 14 years ago. Shownotes:  Connect with me:   

Jun 23

16 min 13 sec

I recently had another IFS session on an elliptical, and this time it led to an unexpected encounter with my inner narrator. Shownotes:  Connect with me:

Jun 13

44 min 20 sec

Whenever you pour your heart into a creative endeavor, those critical thoughts can derail you. "You can't do this." "This isn't good enough." "Who do you think you are to even try?" (And yeah—I'm holding back here. The voices in my head are much harsher.) You can try to fight these voices. That's been my go-to-strategy for much of my life. "STFU, I'm gonna do it anyway." That works. Sometimes. But over time, it also gets very, very tiring. Now, I'm trying something different. I listen to these voices. I appreciate them for speaking up, because I know: They have a reason for saying these things. There's an underlying positive intent. I might not always understand that intent, nor agree with it. But I do believe that these critical parts of myself have my best interest at heart. This is changing me, and changing the way I work. I noticed this again on the second day of my 30 day creative writing challenge. Shownotes: Connect with me:   

Jun 3

30 min 4 sec

I've had another inner work session on the elliptical, and this time I've addressed a major emotional challenge of mine: chronic tension. I've had a very vocal inner critic that used to be the driving force in my life, and it drove me to success in many areas of my life. But it came at a high cost. I felt miserable.  Part of my inner work journey has been to free myself from that critical inner voice. But now I wonder if silencing my inner critic just led to it manifesting itself in chronic tension.  I gotta acknowledge that my inner critic is an important force in my life. I just don't want it to be that harsh, disapproving voice anymore. Maybe channeling that energy into the form of a challenge is a healthier choice.  Shownotes:  Connect with me:

May 31

40 min 39 sec

I've recently had an interesting experience doing an IFS (Internal Family Systems) audio workshop while working out on a threadmill. There's something about working out physically while also doing inner work with your mind that I sparked my curiosity. Shownotes:  Connect with me:

May 30

19 min 58 sec

About a year ago I had my first therapeutic MDMA session, and one of the biggest gifts that stayed with me is a type of meditation. This is the first time that I talk about this meditation and what it has done for me—and while I found it challenging to articulate this in detail, what does come through in this conversation is how immensely valuable it is, and how it has become a core part of my inner work practice.  Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

May 29

37 min 42 sec

I'm highly self-critical by nature, often to a fault. A good amount of the inner work I've been doing over the past 2 years has been about reigning that part of myself in. But now that I'm exploring the IFS (Internal Family Systems) I had a realization: While my inner critic has been the dominant voice in my head for most of my life... I don't actually know much about this part of myself.  Shownotes: Connect with me: 

May 26

32 min 46 sec

I've talked about how out of touch with my emotions I was here many times. One of the things that helped me changes this tremendously was a very simple exercise: I simply started to name my emotions. In this episode, I share how I've benefitted from naming my feelings, and why it's become part of my inner work routine. Shownotes: Connect with me:

May 24

19 min 36 sec

In this episode, I talk about when parts of myself are at conflict with each other. I'm the type of person that's very good at pushing myself to do things, I've got a strong inner pusher. But there's also a part of me that sometimes just want to relax, take it easy and goof off. That in and of itself is fine—we all have those parts in us. The problem arises when these two parts of myself work against each other. If I want to relax, but my inner pusher keeps screaming at me that I better take care of all these things... well, then I'm neither relaxing, nor doing work: I'm fragmented, not fully present. And that's not how I want to live life: I want to be all-in, fully engaged and present. Shownotes: Connect with me: 

May 16

51 min 56 sec

In this episode I talk about an idea I've been exploring for a while now: That we're all made up of different parts, and how they often conflict with each other. There was a time when I thought the best way to deal with the undesirable parts is to just eliminate them, to get rid of them. Now, rather than looking at an isolated part, I try to first understand: What's the function this part fulfills in the larger system?  Shownotes: Connect with me:

May 11

31 min 51 sec

There's a reason why being true and authentic matter so much to me: I know what's on the other side. When I was young, especially during my early teenage years, I lied a lot, habitually. In this episode, which is a conversation I've had  back in September of 2020, I share my long and winding path to truth and authenticity. Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Apr 29

40 min 16 sec

The past couple of weeks being back in Germany, I've started doing what Germans do a lot: think, and think, and think some more. It got to the point where it feels out of balance: too much introspection, too much heavy self-analysis, too much thinking and reflecting, and not enough living for the moment. At least, that's how I interpret what these two weird dreams I've had recently are meant to tell me. Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Apr 23

22 min 54 sec

Here's a book recommendation: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. A very quick and easy read, but one that moved me nonetheless and that I gifted to my nephews and nieces. Shownotes:  Connect with me: 

Apr 22

25 min 57 sec

There's a magic to going into a situation completely open, unprepared and without a plan, and improvising your way into a beautiful dance. Even though there's always the risk that instead of a beautiful dance, you just stumble and fall flat on your face. But if you're not willing to get lost, you'll never find yourself in an unexpected place. Being willing to get lost, to waste time, to look foolish, to make mistakes, is the price of admission. Part of inner work is understanding when it's the right time to plan and prepare, and when it's the right time to let go of your plans and improvise.  Shownotes: Connect with me:     

Apr 19

20 min 44 sec

I never would have expected that pigeons could teach me something about myself—but some of life's most valuable lessons come in surprising ways.  Shownotes: Connect with me:   

Apr 13

9 min 31 sec

I've been reading a book about personal change and anger, and one paragraph early on in the book stood out to me: [If we want to change ourselves, we should do it] very slowly, no matter how crazy or self-defeating our current behavior appears to be. It exists for a reason and may serve a positive and protective function for ourselves and others. If we want to change, it is important to do so slowly so that we have the opportunity to observe and test out the impact of one small, but significant change on a relationship system. If we get ambitious, and try to change too much, too fast, we may not change at all. Instead, we may stir up so much anxiety and emotional intensity within ourselves and others as to eventually reinstate old patterns and behaviors, or we may end up hastily cutting off from an important relationship, which is not necessarily a good solution. - The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner In this episode, I talk about the benefits of slow change, and why radical transformations are often more sizzle than steak. Shownotes: Connect with me: 

Apr 6

34 min 38 sec