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From Humble Beginnings to Personal and Professional Success | Zafar Karim

Today’s Guest Zafar Karim

Emerging from the humble streets of East End London to the prestigious halls of Cambridge University, Zafar Karim exemplifies success and resilience in the tech-business world. A business maestro, he has mastered the art of steering fledgling tech companies to towering IPOs, following an illustrious decade-long journey in investment banking with titans like Salomon Brothers and Rothschild. Beyond a seasoned business leader, Zafar is a trailblazing Oxbridge alumnus, being the first in his family and the sole representative from his school to attain this milestone.

Ever thought about the true power of choices? Dive into Zafar's insights on destiny versus drive and uncover the profound mindset shift that can change everything.

In this episode we explore:

  • Zafar emphasizes the significance of having mentors. He shares insights from his mentors, highlighting how they impacted his life perspective and drove him towards success.
  • A humorous yet profound notion where success is sometimes attributed to the circumstances of birth. However, Zafar notes that being born into privilege doesn't always equate to a fulfilling life.
  • Zafar highlights how perceived disadvantages, like his own stammer, can be reframed as strengths, pushing individuals to develop in unexpected ways.
  • Both discuss the idea that everything in life might not be one's fault, but it's their responsibility. This perspective empowers individuals to take control and make changes, rather than blaming external factors.

Links for Zafar

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Zafar: [00:00:00] I guess the key challenge is becoming aware of yourself. And realizing where you need to grow, uh, realizing it's actually about you. Well, what do I mean by that? It's about pretty much everything that happens. Pretty much where you are now is because of the decisions on the whole that you have made.

Sure, if you... Run out into the road and you get hit by a car, and you know, God forbid, and something bad happens, you couldn't control that. But if you get hit by a car and you're in hospital for a while, or if you lose an arm, you can still control what happens afterwards. Okay, I haven't got an arm, so what am I going to do about it?

And so you've got to realize... limitations and see how you can address them

Matt: Welcome to Push To Be More with me your host Matt Edmundson. Now this is a show that [00:01:00] talks about the stuff that makes life work. And to help us do just that, today I'm chatting with Zafar Karim, also known as Zaf, from Blockapt about where he's had to push through, what he does to recharge his batteries, and what does growth look like, what does more look like.

for him. Now the show notes and transcript from our conversation will be available on our website pushtobemore. com and also on our website you can sign up for our newsletter and each week we will email you the links and the notes from the show automatically. They go straight to your inbox totally for free so do make sure you sign up for that.

Now this episode is brought to you by Aurion Media. Which helps entrepreneurs and business leaders like you set up and run their own successful podcast. Why on earth would you want to do that, you may ask yourself. Well let me tell you, I have found running my own podcast to be insanely rewarding. It is one of the best [00:02:00] marketing tools that I've ever come across.

It opens doors to amazing people like nothing I have seen. I've built networks, made friends, and had a platform to champion my customers. My team and my suppliers and I think just about every entrepreneur and business leader should have a podcast just because it's had such a huge impact on my own business.

Now of course this all sounds great in theory but in reality there's a whole bunch of Problems aren't there, like Setup, Distribution, Strategy, Tech. I mean the whole list goes on, and this is where Aurion Media enter into the scene. They take all of that off your plate. You see, I love talking to people, but I'm not a big fan of production and editing.

I'm just not, which is why Aurion Media do it. I do what I'm good at, and they brilliantly take care of the rest. So if you're wondering if podcasting is a good marketing strategy for your business, have a look, check them out. aurionmedia. com, that's A U R I O N M E D I A dot com. They've [00:03:00] got some great free resources on there that you can also check out.

So do check that out. aurionmedia dot com. Now.

Zafar: again

Matt: Let's talk about today's guest. Emerging from the humble streets of East End London to the prestigious halls of Cambridge University, Zaf exemplifies success and resilience in the tech business world. A business maestro, he has mastered the art of steering fledgling tech IPOs.

Following, following an illustrious decade long journey in investment banking with titans like the Solomon Brothers, Rothschilds, I mean, beyond a seasoned business leader, Zaf is trailblazing Oxbridge alumni's, being the first in his family and the sole representative from his school to attain this milestone.

That's a heck of a bio, Zaf, I'm not gonna lie. It's great to have you on the show. Thanks for joining me. How are we doing?

Zafar: Thank you very much for inviting me. I think you, um, [00:04:00] over compliment me, but hey, you know.

Matt: I just love, I say this quite often now on the podcast, Seth, that, um, I, I never read a guest bio and until it's live as we're recording, because I just love the way these things have been written. Uh, and the production team do such a great job on them. Uh, so great to have you. Are you still in the East end of London?

Where are you now in the world?

Zafar: Uh, so I, uh, uh, my office is in London Bridge, uh, but I guess technically I'm in the East End, but it's now called Canary Wharf as opposed

Matt: Uh, yeah.

Zafar: uh, the less salubrious parts of the East End.

Matt: Canary Wharf is just a lot more trendy, isn't it, and a lot more, a lot more fashionable.

Zafar: It's

Matt: Yeah, yeah. I do like Canary Wharf. I like to walk around there late at night whenever I'm down in London. It's quite a nice place to go. But, um, well, so you're in the illustrious Canary Wharf. Now, Zaf, let's start off the podcast the way I like to start off the podcast with [00:05:00] the podcast question. And I wonder how many more times I can mention the word podcast.

Now, uh, as you know, this show is sponsored by aurion Media, they're a brilliant podcast agency. Can I ask if you had your own podcast? And you could have any guest that you liked on your show, past or present, the only caveat being that they've had a big influence on your life. Who would be a guest on your show and why?

Zafar: Oh my God, that's, um, that's a difficult one. Um, uh, look, I, I, I'm where I am because I stand on the shoulders of giants. Um, and, um, so, There's people as far ranging as, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now, you might not associate him with academia or tech or something, but he's probably one of the only people I know of who has come from Nothing, and being incredibly successful, indeed got to the top [00:06:00] of the tree in three highly competitive careers, um, bodybuilding, Hollywood, and then politics, um, and, uh, you know, I've read his biography, it's, it's, I normally don't read autobiographies, but his one is actually quite good, um, I would, uh, Uh, invite, uh, you know, some of the teachers that inspired me, uh, while I was at school.

Uh, I would invite some of the dons that inspired me and gave me an intellectual awakening while I was at Oxford. I had some mentors, um, while I was at the banks and, and, and, um, uh, subsequent to that. I'd invite, you know, villain characters like Al Fayed, um, Muhammad Al Fayed, because if you actually read his biography, which is Not an autobiography, warts and all, um, it's quite remarkable what he has achieved given where he came from.

The same with Maxwell, Robert Maxwell, [00:07:00] so, um, but again, all of these people don't have to be in academia or in business, um, you know, if you, if you took, take someone like Mo Farah. Um, you know, the, the sprinter, the, the long distance runner, uh, if you actually look at what he's achieved and what's coming out about him, you know, it takes a particular kind of mindset and the resilience to achieve that much.

Yeah. That's not taking away achievements from people that have had the silver spoon or whatever, but it's the distance you've traveled rather than where you end up. And, um, there's lessons to be learned from all of them. Absolutely.

Matt: true, that's so true, and um, it's interesting isn't it when you still, I finally, like you have done here, Zaf, you know, one of the interesting things that happens when you think about this question, um, you come up with an answer and you think. Well, this person inspired me because of X, Y, and Z, or this person's had an influence on me because of X, Y, and Z.

And it just snowballs. You [00:08:00] can quickly just keep going and keep going and keep going, you know, and, and the, the whole level of inspiration, uh, is, is fascinating. What does fascinate me about your answer is no one yet has mentioned Arnold Schwarzenegger, um, as a, as a, as a guest on the show, but actually. Um, I think you're right.

I think he would make a fascinating guest on the show because he has done it in sort of three areas and you, uh, he's gone, he's back in Hollywood now, isn't he? He's, he's now making films. I saw that there was a TV series with him, uh, uh, I think on Netflix. Um, and so you're kind of like, This guy, him and Sylvester Stallone, you kind of, I, in my head, you compare the two of them, do you know what I mean, but Schwarzenegger has done what Stallone hasn't, in the sense that he has been successful in other arenas, whereas Stallone was always the, sort of, the actor and the writer.

Um, but I, I, I would find it fascinating, uh, like you, Zaf, I, I think that's [00:09:00] a, that's a great answer. I'm curious though, when you said, um,

Zafar: I don't know what it

Matt: You, you use this phrase, you had an intellectual awakening, uh, I think, was it, um, uh, the phrase that you used, what, what was that? What was that all about?

Zafar: Um, so, um, my parents were immigrants from, um, Pakistan and, um, in the seventies, eighties, and there's this very much thing about, um, um, you know, you are either gonna be a doctor, an engineer, an accountant, a physicist, et cetera. So when I went up to, uh, Cambridge, Um, I, um, I actually did A levels in Physics, Chemistry, Maths, and prior to that, as a teenager, I used to program computers, so I was very much in that kind of mold that my parents can hold me up and say, you know, my son's a scientist

Matt: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm.

Zafar: I decided to read economics, [00:10:00] um, much to the, uh, annoyance of my parents who thought, economics?

Matt: Mm-hmm.

Zafar: that? Don't forget this was, uh, the mid 80s, mid to late 80s. Um, but even at that time, I had a kind of... Disdainful view of classics or philosophy or history. What's the point? Um, and then by the time I got to the end of my Cambridge career, and certainly subsequently, I started realizing how valuable those subjects actually are. Philosophy and the clarity of thought it can give you. History, because, you know, if you don't study history and if you don't learn from it, you're destined to repeat it. I mean, that's a cliché, but it's actually true. Um, uh, Classics, because the, the texts that you study are [00:11:00] as applicable today as they were, you know, 3, 000 years ago.

Matt: Yeah.

Zafar: And my kind of intellectual, intellectualization of that is simply the following. Whereas. As human beings, we've massively changed our environment. We've advanced, you know, we've gone from walking to horse and cart to electric cars, etc. Fundamentally, The world is about what humans do, and what humans do comes from the brain, and it comes from the intellectual part to the extent of rationalization, but actual making decisions is an emotional part.

And, believe it or not, the brain hasn't evolved that much in the last 3, 000 years.

Matt: Mm.

Zafar: So the, so the things that were applicable to how humans think... And the emotions and what drives humans and what doesn't, I, it's applicable now. And, and so, so it was exposure to those ideas and having debates with, [00:12:00] um, you know, people who were reading, in quotes, lesser subjects, which I realize aren't lesser subjects at all.

In fact, they're the basis of so many things. Um, Cambridge taught me to think, how to think. Uh, you know, doing my A levels and O levels and, you know, I did well. But I realize there's a big difference in learning how to think.

Matt: Yeah.

Zafar: Um, so yeah, that's, that's what I'd say intellectual awakening. I wish it had occurred earlier, but hey, you know, um, everybody has different circumstances.

Matt: They do, and it's fascinating listening to you talk, Zaf, because I'm, and I'm smiling because uh, I, as I get older, um, the more I realise, uh, actually some of the things that I, like you, thought were a bit dull and boring, uh, actually is super interesting all of a sudden. So, thank you. I remember, you know, again, having that, that, that moment of realisation, probably in my mid [00:13:00] twenties, uh, that actually history is actually quite interesting, uh, and, and, and it was only then that I started to really understand it, uh, more and started to read around it more.

It was only sort of in my, I guess, early 30s that I actually started to care about our grandparents who were in World War II and actually really understanding their story. And I think for me, cinema in a lot of ways has helped bring history to life recently, you know, with the advances in technology and CGI.

But pre tech, I mean, when I was in my 20s, it was a while ago. Let me, let me just be clear with you. Um, it's, this is before technology, but I, I, I do sit here and think, yes, I, I do wonder what it was that, or I wonder what it is that is an age thing that makes me appreciate these topics. The more I go through life rather than appreciating them when I have the opportunity to learn and absorb a lot more, like at school, for [00:14:00] example, I don't know.

I don't know if you have any thoughts on this.

Zafar: Um, growth, um, maturing, um, uh, you know, people mature at different levels, people maturing to different things. Um, I'm certainly not the person I was ten years ago and, um, Probably unrecognizable from the person I was 20 years ago.

Matt: Um, uh.

Zafar: Um, if I kind of turn that on its head, uh, 30 years ago I was so clever and everything else I knew I had nothing to learn.

Uh, 20 years ago I was a lot clever and realize I had quite a bit to learn and now I know nothing. Uh, I, I've still got everything to learn. I, I, I make no assumptions anymore.

Matt: it is funny that curve that you go through, isn't it, and um, we often say that about the teenagers, you know, teenagers know everything in the world, those in their twenties kind of know most things about the world, and then by the time you get to your forties and fifties you [00:15:00] realise you actually know nothing about the world.

Uh, that's quite a fascinating journey that we all sort of go on with that. So, looking back then. Zaf over, you know, over this period of growth, you know, from your twenties to your fifties and, and your, your sort of remarkable story. What, what jumps out at, of, you know, to you as maybe one or two of the key challenges in life that you sort of had to face, you know, that you, that you came through.

What, what were some of those turning points for you?

Zafar: Well, look, I, I think, um,

you do ask quite deep questions, which is good. Um, I, I guess the key challenge is becoming aware of yourself. And realizing where you need to grow, uh, realizing [00:16:00] it's actually about you. Well, what do I mean by that? It's about pretty much everything that happens. Pretty much where you are now is because of the decisions on the whole that you have made.

Sure, if you... Run out into the road and you get hit by a car, and you know, God forbid, and something bad happens, you couldn't control that. But if you get hit by a car and you're in hospital for a while, or if you lose an arm, you can still control what happens afterwards. Okay, I haven't got an arm, so what am I going to do about it?

And so you've got to realize... limitations and see how you can address them. Um, I, I, I think that's the key challenge. So let me put this in, into perspective. So people say to me, Oh my God, you know, you're brought up in the East End and, uh, you know, the West End football ground was the center for the National Front and everything else.

And see, but that's all I knew. And my attitude towards it. Yeah, so, I just got to deal with [00:17:00] it, you know, I didn't know that my school was not a good school. I just did what I did, and I've got exams coming up, I better do some work, right? Um, I didn't know that, um, uh, uh, you know, there was racism then, there's racism now. I don't see it as a challenge, as something to overcome. I just thought, okay, that's, that's, that's, that's a given. I can blame everything on that, or I can just get on and try and do what I'm going to try and do. So, there are obstacles, but I don't see those as challenges. Now, when I look back, I realize that at that time, the schooling in my area was very bad.

But if you ask, go back 40 years and ask me, I'd just say, no, it's great school, you know, whatever. Yeah. When I go back, uh, say 20 years, 30 years, and I look back [00:18:00] and I think, you know, when I started my professional career, there was a lot of ways of behaving and norms and the rest of it, which I just wasn't aware of because I'd never been exposed to this.

And I, I'd never known anyone in my circle of family, friends, anything that, exposed to this, but I didn't see that as, oh, that's a challenge. I've got to overcome it. I realize now it took me longer to overcome those things because I had to grow. I had to be aware that I didn't

Matt: Um,

Zafar: those things, but it wasn't like, oh, that's an obstacle in the way and how am I going to overcome it?

Do you see my point? So my, my, my attitude has always been Well, you just get on with it. And then maybe five years later, you're like, my God, everybody else that's done this didn't have that problem to overcome. But I didn't see it as a challenge at the time. It's just, I've just got to get on with it.

Matt: yeah,

Zafar: I think resilience, resilience is, is really important.

In the credit crunch, I, I suffered very badly. Um, and I basically had to get up and start again. And, you know, I wasn't a 20 year old. I was a [00:19:00] 40 year old. So, so what's the alternative? You're going to sit there and mope until your friend, you had a bad time and everything else and then 20 years look back and say well I spent the last 20 years of my life pitying myself.

Matt: um,

Zafar: Or you can say, well, you know, stuff happens. It probably happened for a reason. To teach me a lesson. I don't know. I don't know what the lesson is but I'm going to bloody well find out.

Matt: That's such a great attitude. As you're talking, um, I'm reminded, Zaf, of an episode we recorded on the podcast quite early on, actually, with a guy called Ram Gidimal. Who's also in London, uh, immigrated, uh, I think it was in the sixties, um, into the UK from India via, via Kenya, I think it was, um, very similar mindset.

It's like, we have all of these problems, we can't control them, but what can we do? Let's get on and do something. And it's, it's, it's, it's fascinating listening to you talk. And I, I don't know, is this something that, [00:20:00] um, you learned? Yourself, is this something that came through your parents, this attitude?

I'm kind of curious where it came from.

Zafar: If you'd asked me these questions before the podcast, I would still have had as much difficulty trying to answer them. But you haven't, so this makes it more difficult. Um, look, you're really talking about nature versus nurture, I think. Um, and... Uh, when I was growing up, I, I was cognizant of the fact that, you know, we were in the East End, you know, East End people do this.

I was cognizant of the fact that, um, you know, there was never much money around. Um, and, um, you know, there wasn't the internet and stuff, but, you know, you had TV and things. And, I just knew I wanted better, I wanted, this is not what I wanted for my life. Um, and so that gave me a [00:21:00] massive drive. Now let's take the same Zaf Karim.

Let's say I'd been born, um, in much more fortunate circumstances with much more, uh, well endowed parents and a better school and everything else and the rest of it. I may not have had that drive.

Matt: mm,

Zafar: Because I would have thought, this is pretty good, I want to stay here.

Matt: yeah,

Zafar: And, and staying there may still have taken effort, but it might not have taken as much effort. Um, once you've got that drive, it kind of stays short and mellows out over time. Um, so is that nature, or is it nurture? I think it's a mixture.

So, I've got four siblings, and, uh, we have, A wide variation in the degrees of success we've had in our lives. I don't just mean career wise, but otherwise. Yet we were brought up by the same parents in the same circumstances. So, yes, there must be some element of, uh, [00:22:00] uh, uh, nature.

Matt: mm,

Zafar: But there must be some element of nurture as well.

Um, So, you know, look, it's a difficult one. Has everybody with my circumstances ended up being as successful or unsuccessful, depending on, you know, which part of the tree you're on? Um, uh, no. Uh, so, yeah, I think it's a drive. I think I've always been driven, fairly driven, uh, from an early age. Um, it's just, it's just, yeah.

But nature, nurture, huh, you know, I don't know.

Matt: yeah. It's an interesting one, isn't it? And I like, I like... How you talk about that, you know, and how it's a mixture of two things. And if you were born into different circumstances, would you still have the drive? I'm kind of curious though, for you, um, you know, the, the whole resilience, uh, which I think is a great word.

It's not a word we hear a lot of these days, if I'm honest with you, [00:23:00] um,

Zafar: I had to look it up before I used it.

Matt: Brilliant. Uh, it's, it's, uh, it's an interesting, because I think if I was to categorize a word at the moment, I don't know if I'd, of culture at the moment, I don't know if I'd use the word resilience more than I'd use the word victim, in the sense that everybody's become a victim about various things. And it's,

Zafar: Please.

Matt: yeah, it seems to be the opposite.

But I'm kind of, I'm kind of curious, um, for you, Zef, um, You had this drive, you wanted to develop, you wanted to get out, you wanted to have more. Do you feel like you've done that? Do you feel like you've achieved that? Or is it still a quest that you're on?

Zafar: Look, I, I think for me, um, you know, my life in, in various fields, personal, um, professional, Intellectual, whatever. It's basically, um, kind of [00:24:00] been fairly volatile, you know, going up and then suddenly you crash down and going up and crash down. And, um, um, I was talking to one of my very good friends over Christmas, um, Uh, and, uh, funnily enough about the podcasts that we listen to, you know, while we're out jogging or whatever we're doing.

And um, so she told me what she listens to and, and, and I said to her, Oh, I tend to listen to a lot of, um, podcasts about, uh, uh, Self improvement. Um, so, you know, this might be Tony Robbins. It might be, I'm not going to mention others, but you know, there's lots of these things. It might be about startups and how you grow startups.

It might be about sales. It might be about, uh, kind of, um, Moral philosophy. Um, I don't want to plug others, but I listen to the Moral Maze, for example,

Matt: hmm.

Zafar: Um, and [00:25:00] she, because she's known me for too long, um, she said, I, Zaf, you're still on that quest for self improvement and, you know, but you have, you, you haven't changed a, you know, a dot since I met you kind of thing, like you're still pure or immature, but she's a friend of mine.

And so, you know, I, I, I think. The moment you stop pursuing that, I think it would be, for me, it would be a disaster because I mentioned earlier, you know, in my career there was lots of mores and ways of behaving and doing things which I didn't know because I'd never experienced anything. But because I was so good at other things, I was able to mask them.

Now I wasn't masking them intentionally, I just didn't know I had all those deficiencies.

Matt: Yeah.

Zafar: But over time I became more and more self aware and I've been able to... Plug those deficiencies. And as a result, across the board, aspects of my life got better. So I [00:26:00] think this is a continuous, continuous thing. So, so I read a hell of a lot, for example, usually, uh, fact, um, biographies, uh, books on business, books, books on, I don't know, philosophy, etc, etc, history.

Finance, whatever. Every now and again I read a fiction book because my wife reads a lot of those and she gives me one of those that she thinks I'll enjoy and I read and I think, yeah, this is really good. Um, it's a continual process. Um, uh, yeah, it's a continual process.

Matt: No, it is. I think that's why they call it growth, right? Uh, you keep moving and it's, um, it's, it's one of those and I, but I'm, I'm, I guess the reason I'm asking this question is, you know, when you, when you go back to being a lad growing up in the East End or, you know, you're doing your A levels or you're at Cambridge and, you know, you're, you're envisioning your life in the future, which is more than what it was in the past, you know, whether it was the circumstances, the money, [00:27:00] whatever it was, um.

Zafar: Bye. Bye. Yeah.

Matt: I wonder what that, what that sort of younger version of Zaf would think about the, where you are now, if that makes sense. Did you, did the younger version anticipate kind of where you are?

Zafar: No, absolutely not. Um, so, when I was, um, at school, I was very much the geek scientist, chemistry, physics, maths. I designed electronic circuits, they got published in magazines, I wrote computer games which were published, you know, etc, etc. Um, and, um, when I went up to university, I... I decided I wanted to do something that was more real world.

So, you know, when you're talking to people, they don't talk about, if I drop a stone from a 100 meter building, how long is it going to take to hit the ground? They talk about, bloody hell, when is inflation going to come down? So I thought, there's this subject called economics. [00:28:00] Let's, let's have a crack. Um, and so, so when I went up to university, I, I, I read economics.

And, um, Cambridge is a different world. Um, it was a foreign world. You know, I ended up there. I applied almost by accident, um, because it was so much outside of the realm of my entire existence. It was because somebody persuaded me to go to an open day, and I went to an open day, and I thought, you know what, if I don't apply, I won't know, so I kind of applied.

Um, but then everything was so new. It wasn't until The first term of my third year that I actually started thinking, Oh, what am I going to do? Um, you know, because economics, you can do lots of things. And, um, at the time, the most glamorous and highest paying jobs were investment banking and strategic consultancy.

So I thought, you know what, give it a go. And I managed to get into Solomon Brothers, which at the time was probably the best investment bank in the world. So, [00:29:00] you know, if you look at it from that honest perspective, I can't then say, oh, in my first year, I'd planned to be prime minister by the time I was 25 years old or something.

Matt: Yeah,

Zafar: Because, because it was all so foreign to me.

Matt: yeah, yeah.

Zafar: You know, it was something I saw on TV and it was for other people. Um, so I was kind of floating along and doing what I do and getting involved in society. Now, oh, I have to make a decision now. What shall I do? And I thought, well, I know that these look glamorous and you make a lot of money and let's go for it.

Matt: Yeah.

Zafar: Um, a few years into my career, I thought, you know, I'd been investment banking all my life and everything else and the rest of it. And I'd be a, you know, gilded banker kind of thing. I was far more wanted to do my own kind of thing and, and I left to start doing what, what I do, which is identify businesses, particularly in tech, get involved and hopefully make a massive difference, turn them around, grow them, et cetera, et cetera. [00:30:00] But the kind of planning stage, even I know some of my friends who literally had plans that, you know, they'd be married by the time they were 30 and the rest of it.

Um, And they were, and in some ways their lives on some measures gone far better than mine because they actually had a plan. They knew where they were going, but I didn't because, you know, from the East End to Cambridge and then investment banking, where you didn't even know what investment banking was at the interview, you just kind of. it. Um, of course you read all the stuff and everything else, but you didn't really know what it was.

Matt: People still don't know, to be fair, and that's fine.

Zafar: Yeah, that includes me. Um, and, um, uh, so you can't, you can't really plan on that basis when you're moving. So, well, I certainly couldn't. Now, you know, I'm 54, right? So I kind of have a plan that, you know, there's certain things I want to get done in a certain space of time because I've seen it.

Yeah. I'm standing on sufficient number of shoulders that I can look down and say, you know, this is where I am and this is where I want to [00:31:00] be. Because when I was in the East End, I was standing on no shoulders, and so I didn't know what existed, so if I don't know what exists there, how can I decide if I want to be there or there or there? Does that make sense?

Matt: No, it does. Totally. It's a very similar story to mine, although I didn't do the investment banking thing, but a very, very, very similar story. So I'm curious then, uh, Zaf, what does more look like for you now? What's growth look like for you now? If you, if you, um, I don't know if, if you thought about the sort of next 5, 10, 20 years, what does, what does that sort of look like?

Zafar: Absolutely. Because I've experienced so much more, I kind of, you know, I know people, I don't mean know of, I know people who are billionaires. Um, I know people who are, um, working at charities or in need of charity. So I have a much wider scope. So... I think, [00:32:00] uh, there's, you know, I'm working on a particular business, Block APT, I want to grow that, I want to make it as valuable as possible and then, uh, pass it on to the next person who can take it to the next level.

Um, that seems to be going fairly well, but... You know, in this arena, startup arena, early stage, it's high risk, very high risk. Um, so, so there's that. Then post that, I need to think about what, what I'm going to do after that, maybe start up a fund, maybe. So I have a much clearer idea, but that's from a career standpoint.

In what I do, I might end up broke, literally, or I might end up being worth 100 million.

Matt: Mm

Zafar: It's not out of, uh, you know, scope. It's not like, um, you know, a partner at a law firm. And I know over the next five years, maybe I'll make a million, a million, a million, a million, and there'll be 5 million. And that's kind of where it, you know, it could be very high.

It could be disastrous. Um, if I [00:33:00] achieve. Uh, the latter, which is, you know, the hundred or billion or whatever. I have a very clear ideal of, um, what I would want to do with that money. And past a certain amount, the rest I would basically, um, uh, uh, uh, give to charity. And I know precisely what the charity is and indeed what I'd like them to do with it and every, you know, I've, because I have this wider scope now.

This wider perspective, it's not just an idea, so I know that would cost this, and that would cost this, and that would cost this, and that would cost this kind of thing. Um, growth, um, my daughter who's um, eight next month, um, she's told me that I need to increase my one pack to a six pack, otherwise she's not going to be my daughter anymore. Um, so there's a lot of pressure there, um, and then, um,

Matt: her.

Zafar: and then there's, um, Uh, yeah, uh, you know, I've been very lucky in my life in [00:34:00] terms of, I've learnt a lot. I don't just mean intellectually, I mean in many other ways as well. I'd love to be able to pass that knowledge on. Um, you know, again, not taking anything away from my background or the rest of it, but there's lots of aspects of which, if I had a different background, I would have had that knowledge earlier.

Um, and it's not knowledge as in hard facts or things, it's ways of doing things, you know, et cetera, et cetera. Um, growth. Yeah, look, you know, um, I've run an 80 person company. It would be interesting to run a 100 person company, a 1000 person company. Whether I would want to do that or just pass it on, I don't know.

But you need to keep doing things. You can't, you know, you're either dying or you're growing. There is actually no standing still. That's the way I look at it. And, uh, it's up to you what or how you [00:35:00] do that.

Matt: Mm.

Zafar: it's not what happens to you. It's, it's, um, it's what you do about it. Now, one of, one of, one of the people I admire, uh, Warren Buffett,

Matt: Mm.

Zafar: right?

I've read lots of his biography and, and, uh, well, one, he comes out with lots of pithy phrases. And once he was asked, you know, if you had one piece of, um, uh, advice for someone. Uh, uh, investment advice or advice, what would you, what would, would that be? And he answered, choose the right womb to be born into or born from. Brilliant. Brilliant. Because, because no matter what you do in

Matt: Yeah,

Zafar: if you happen to be born in certain particular rooms, you are set for life. Under normal, uh,

Matt: yeah,

Zafar: But, you know, that may mean that you're aimless, you, you don't have any challenges, you, you don't lead a [00:36:00] fulfilled life because of that.

But it is, it's brilliant. Do you, do you see my point? So, yeah, so you've got to, you've got to, you've just got to keep, keep at it, keep growing. Yeah, you can, ups and downs and the rest of it, you just push through. Or you can sit there and pity yourself and blame it on everything else. One of my friends.

Mentors, um, who I consider a mentor, very successful, uh, individual, uh, massively successful, one of the first successful Asian people in, in the country. Um, as in, you know, in the 80s and 90s, there were no successful Asian people that made it to the general public's consciousness. I remember one of the things he said to me, uh, you know, we were discussing something and, and he said, he said, everything's my fault.

I looked at him and I said, What do you mean everything's your fault? You're so bloody successful and everything

Matt: mm.

Zafar: and blah blah blah blah. And he said, look, if, uh, [00:37:00] tomorrow, um, you know, one of my, my son, I'm trying not to give away who he is. My son is walking down the road to come and visit me. And he gets hit by a car or something.

That's my fault. And I said, how is it your fault? And he said, because I have a chauffeur that could go and pick him up.

Matt: Mm

Zafar: That mentality is brilliant, because once you realize not everything is your fault, but everything is your responsibility, then you have the power to do something about it. But if you think, oh, it's... Racism. Well, okay, you can't change that. You can't do anything about it. Oh, it's um, I'm missing one arm. You can't change that.

So you can't do anything about it. So it's disempowering, but if you are actually strong enough to say, you know what, it actually comes down to me, doesn't it? No matter what my circumstance is, then you have the ability. That's the first step in [00:38:00] psychologically realizing that you have the ability to do something about it.

Matt: Yeah. No, that's great.

Zafar: So,

Matt: Super powerful, Zaf. Listen, uh, you reminded me of a book I read called Extreme Ownership, uh, by Jocko Wilkins, innit? Yeah, a great book, uh, written by a Navy SEAL. Um, and you'll love it. Uh, it's that kind of mentality all over. Um, listen, I'm aware of time, uh, which has rapidly got away from us.

I realise I've got a thousand more questions. Uh, but if people listening to the show want to connect with you, want to reach out to you, want to find out more about Block Act, what's the best way to do that?

Zafar: Um, probably on LinkedIn, uh, but I get lots of LinkedIn requests. So, if I'm on LinkedIn, they, you know, use the headline that, Uh, relates to this podcast. Then I know it will have come through this. So, I'm far more likely to, uh, uh, respond to it.

Matt: Fantastic.

Zafar: I mean, I read them all, but, you know, responding, different thing.

Matt: Yeah, [00:39:00] the same way. I'm exactly the same way.

Zafar: Yeah, no, I'm on LinkedIn under Zafar Karim, Z A F A R K A R I M. There might be some other Zafar Karims there, but if you look for Zafar Karim, that's at BlockAPT at the moment, then you'll get me. And there's a picture there, which should look like me, but, you know.

Matt: You never know. You never know. We will of course link to Zaf's info in the show notes as well, which you can get along for free, uh, with the transcript, um, at pushtobemore. com. Zaf, listen, uh, really appreciate you taking the time and coming and sharing your wisdom with us. Thanks for... Thanks for just being totally straight and I, I just love your insights and philosophy on life, really, really insightful.

I have lots of notes, um, and I wish you every success with becoming the billionaire and turning the one pack into a six pack, my friend.

Zafar: Thank you so much and thank you for being very generous in your compliments, um, maybe one day I'll be deserving of them. [00:40:00] Thanks, Matt. Uh,

Matt: No problem, thanks. Huge thanks again to Zaf for joining me today. Also, a big shout out to today's show sponsor, Aurion Media. If you're wondering if podcasting is a good marketing strategy for your business, and I think it probably is, do connect with them at aurionmedia. com. That's A U R I O N M E D I A dot com.

Now be sure to follow Push To Be More wherever you get your podcasts from, because we've got some more great conversations just like this one, lined up, well not just like this one because every conversation is different, but it will be a great conversation, so make sure you are subscribed, and in case no one has told you yet today, you are awesome.

Awesome. Yes you are. It's just a burden you have to bear. Created awesome. Zaf has to bear it, I have to bear it, you've got to bear it as well. Now, Push To Be More is produced by Aurion Media. You can find our entire archive of episodes on your favourite podcast app. The team that makes this show possible is Sadaf Beynon, Estella Robin and Tanya [00:41:00] Hutsuliak.

Our theme music was written by Josh Edmundson. And as I mentioned, if you would like to read the transcript or show notes, you can find them on the website, pushtobemore. com. That's it from me. That's it from Zafar. I appreciate you being with us. Have a fantastic week, wherever you are in the world. I'll see you next time.

Bye for now.