Against All Odds: How I Cheated Death and Achieved Success [2022 Review]

Ogunbowale Olugbenga
17 min readJan 15, 2023


“Is He breathing?”

“Is He Alive?”

“Scream his name!”

In a series of events worthy of a Netflix movie, I went from a simple harmless pain in the chest to the surgical table.

Welcome to the 10th installment of my yearly reviews.

For the past 9 years, I have shared deeply personal experiences, professional milestones and life hacks that helped me navigate the year. I shared my review in the years 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 with you to hopefully turbocharge your journey through the year.

This year’s review was delayed for weeks because I spent a ton of time setting and finetuning my 2023 goals. Then, I started getting calls and chats from friends and acquaintances asking why my review was not yet published, and how they found my past reviews insightful. Inspired by their kind words, I poured over my 2022 records and cooked the meal that is “Against All Odds”

Here is how my 2022 went down:


I set a total of 53 goals across 12 themes, and for the first time in my life, I figured out I had been setting goals wrong. But I get ahead of myself. Here’s how I fared:

I maintained a healthy weight. Got into a prestigious MBA, got closer to my family, saw a ton of documentaries, gave like Santa Claus, checked up on friends deliberately, and then switched up my tech gadgets and fashion sense (thanks to my accountability partner, Esther).

Esther was always there to follow up on my goals. For example, Spectator to Spectacular would not have happened if not for Esther (she stayed on my case). Not only did 50 participants learn how to double their income, but every attendee also walked away with a financial grant! It was the perfect way to celebrate my birthday.

A huge thanks to my close friends who supported me in cash and kind to make Spec2Spec 6 successful. So, if there is one hack to crush your goals, it is to find yourself an accountability partner. Esther and I push each other to smash our goals.

Another hack is to not only set smart goals, but to move beyond goal setting to roadmap setting.

What do I mean? It’s almost useless to set goals if there is no defined timeline attached to each goal. Now, I know you’ve been attaching deadlines, but have you been putting your goals into specific months? The reason why I did not achieve more goals was because I did not translate my goals to a roadmap.

This year, I took inspiration from a Gantt chart (a project management tool commonly used by grant writers) and created a goals roadmap in addition to goals by themes. It looks like this:

I hope you now know why my planning took so much time. It’s easy to write goals, it’s hard to put them into a specific month, define the strategy to get there, and assign a specific start and end date. If you’d like to get a copy of all my planners (weekly planner, financial diary, goals roadmap), head here.

House hunting 101

Why did I move out of my previous apartment in early 2022? It was bad for my mental and physical health.

For example, I once walked past the junction leading to my place only to learn that armed robbers shot thrice into the air while they forcefully stole a bike at that same junction barely 5 mins before. A POS operator was robbed at gunpoint in the afternoon. In late 2021, my phone was stolen at gunpoint. I did not need a prophet to warn me that I needed to leave. But house hunting was tough.

I had to delegate someone to house hunt simultaneously with me as I was weeks away from having my rent expire. I found an apartment close to work, but it had no water. The caretaker said He wanted a family with strong kids who could fetch water (as if fetching water was the ultimate usefulness of being a ‘strong kid’). Twice, I found a place I liked but someone paid before I did.

One time, I paid for a place that was even slightly smaller than where I was trying to relocate from, and with poor ventilation too. I had paid because it was close to Grant Master. On getting to the office, I felt buyer’s remorse. I asked for a refund. The agent said the Landlord had spent the money on school fees (within how many minutes?), and they plan to pay me back when someone pays for the place.

My payment had grown wings at the speed of light. It took nearly one week to get my money back. Another agent took me to a place where young people smoked weed freely by the roadside in the afternoon. I did not bother asking for the cost of the rent. I finally found an apartment I liked. But it took paying agents who took me on several fruitless trips before I finally found something I liked. The real estate space is still very ripe for disruption. Anyone who can make house hunting painless will make serious money.

The Orphan Empowerment Society (TOES)

It all started from a birthday gesture. A friend of mine decided to celebrate her birthday at an orphanage and I showed up to support my friend only to discover another level of poverty. Instead of hair on the heads of the children, it was ringworm.

Their clothes were well-worn and badly needed replacement. They frequently skipped meals because the caregivers had to ration the little food they got from random donors. The shocker: the kids shared a toothbrush. I left with a mission: to end orphan poverty in Africa.

This is why I founded The Orphan Empowerment Society (TOES) in 2016. Since then, TOES has been working tirelessly towards the goal of empowering 1 million orphans in Africa and end orphan poverty in Africa.

Here are the things we did in 2022:

1. We empowered over 250 orphans with free medical care, vocational skills, and food across 9 states in Nigeria and 3 countries in Africa (Nigeria, Botswana, Sierra Leone). In other words, these orphans will rely less on aid and rely more on their newfound skills to start small businesses, and with their improved finances, access better feeding & better education. A major step towards ending orphan poverty in Africa

2. We shut down our physical office to go 100% remote (we barely used the office).

3. We shut down inactive state and country chapters (to focus our efforts on the most promising chapters).

4. We provided tuition scholarships and back-to-school supplies to over 50 students across Botswana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

TOES is truly blessed to have incredible volunteers who give their time, skill and resources to transform the lives of orphans across Africa.

There is so much work to be done & we need your support. You can volunteer here. You can donate here.

Books, Movies, Documentaries:


Toward the end of 2022, I struggled with reading books. It was not that I suddenly stopped reading, it was that I suddenly had different things to read. Quantic EMBA gave me a full scholarship and I was now a student. Out of the books I read from start to finish, there are 2 books I highly recommend:

  1. Working Backwards

Full disclaimer: I’m a big fan of Amazon so maybe I am a bit biased here but Working Backwards is an absolute beast.

Working Backwards is an insider’s breakdown of Amazon’s approach to culture, leadership, and best practices from two long-time Amazon executives―with lessons and techniques you can apply to your own company, and career, right now. I learnt that being Amazonian is not a mystical leadership cult but a flexible mindset. I learnt how new ideas and products are developed at Amazon: Working Backwards from the desired customer experience. Working Backwards is both a practical guidebook and the story of how the company grew to become so successful. Whether you work for a startup or lead one, Working Backwards will show you how to grow big while staying lean.

2. Super founders

Did you know that most unicorn founders had no industry experience? Did you know that there’s no disadvantage to being a solo founder or to being a non-technical CEO? Did you know that less than 15% of super founders went through any kind of accelerator program?

The book features stories and exclusive interviews from super founders who have built massively successful companies, and super investors who fund them. Super Founders uses a data-driven approach to understand what really differentiates billion-dollar startups from the rest — revealing that nearly everything we thought was true about them is false!

If you are looking for a paradigm-shifting, adrenaline pumping, head turning, no bullshit guide to starting and growing a successful startup, Super founders is your plug.

Movies & Documentaries:

-I saw a YouTube video of Brian Tracy on “secrets of self-made millionaires”. It fired me up!

-I came across a snippet of Joe Rogan’s interview with Mr Beast and it was mind blowing. How can Mr Beast be 24 and on top of the world? Like how? He broke it down.

-Saw Mr Beast’s Antarctica video. The place is so beautiful and yet so cold. I then read articles on Shopify’s website about him and a New York times article on his manager’s $100 million VC bet on finding the next Mr Beast.

-I subscribed to Amazon Prime Video only because of Jack Ryan (Season 3). The incredible action scenes and spell binding story telling were particularly spectacular. The concluding episode was suspense filled and gripping.

-I finally subscribed to Showmax so I could watch the remaining world cup games. I cancelled my sub after Croatia vs Argentina (so I won’t be charged after my 1-month billing period). And thanks to my Showmax sub, I started seeing Crime & Justice Lagos. The acting was a bit cosmetic, but the storyline was good. I saw 5 episodes (each new episode dropped weekly). I like how each episode is a standalone masterpiece. And I love how they spotlight societal issues like harassment by the police, kidnapping and organ trafficking.

-I saw all episodes of House of Dragons season 1. It’s not as smooth as Game of Thrones but its close. At least, I now understand why people spend donkey hours watching the series: the storyline draws you in.

-I saw the Terminal list season 1. The story telling is damn compelling. Of course, I love action. And it’s about a NAVY seal who’s entire unit got ambushed during an operation only for him to get home and He is nearly killed while having an MRI scan. He rushes home to find his family dead. The military police are compromised, and the authorities don’t believe him because He has concussions and some headaches and some irrational behavior but also possibly due to traitors within the system. He goes on a revenge mission, and He starts listing names and crossing off names one by one. The list is on the flip side of a drawing by his dead daughter. I love the high stakes storytelling and fact-finding part of this series. Super cool.

-I saw the Peripheral season 1. It gave me ‘Ready Player One’ vibes. It found the ‘predictions’ of the future intriguing. How could you become rich and powerful if you knew for sure, what would happen in the future?

Grant Master

-We decided to create better content in 2022 and that meant improving our gear. We ordered a Canon camera from amazon.

-We launched the 2nd edition of Creative Writers Fellowship: our signature program grooming talented creative writers into exceptional grant writers.

-The team celebrated our 2nd anniversary in style at Golden Tulip.

-We won multiple awards and ended the year with a grant from USADF.

-Together, team Grant Master won over a million dollars in grants for her clients in 2022. If you wish to hire a top-rated grant writer to significantly improve your chances of winning grants in 2023, head here. If you are not sure you can attract grant funding or want to know what you need to attract grants, take this test.

-We doubled our 2021 revenue in 2022.

-A big shout out to our amazing advisory board. Thanks for your advice and support. Love you.

It’s a blessing to have a truly incredible team. Thanks team. Let’s do it bigger in 2023.

Epower’s Cyberhygiene Campaign

As an awardee of the Africa Online Safety Fund (powered by Google), Epower built an interactive mobile app called Cyber Hygiene App that provides secondary students, teachers and parents with online safety education and online awareness information with a core focus on ending cyberbullying in classrooms.

We developed written content, video content and games for the Cyber Hygiene App specifically for students, parents and teachers. We had over 1,000 users within the first 30 days of launch. We pitched and distributed Cyber Hygiene App to 45 schools.

While the initial target audience was secondary school students, we have since trained students at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology as well as the Oyo State College of Technology on internet safety. In both schools, we reached over 2,000 students.

You can download the App here on the Google Play Store and here on the Apple App store.

The gift that keeps giving

Inspired by Olumide OG, I upgraded to YouTube premium family and Spotify premium family. I added family and friends to both plans. This guarantees that every month, I give a tiny gift of subscription at a fraction of the cost of the full fee, to my closest family and friends. What affordable ongoing gift could you give your family and friends in 2023?


2 people offered to pay me for business mentorship in 2022 and I was certainly surprised when they reached out. I did not put out any advert, but they were convinced I could help them grow their small business as a fellow small business owner.

The sessions went well and I look forward to helping more aspiring and current small business owners grow their business. I also worked with 5 mentees and one of them got into Quantic MBA as a result of our conversations.

The students are crushing their GPA goals and making serious money as students. The aspiring OAP is already shutting down events. Let’s just say that I am a damn proud mentor.

Mac Vs PC, Android vs iPhone

My HP laptop spoilt beyond repair and thanks to my laptop insurance, AXA Mansard refunded 90% of the cost of the laptop without stressing me. I then switched to a Mac. One month later, I was frustrated with being unable to use my Samsung Galaxy phone with my Mac and decided to switch to an iPhone.

In terms of the exterior design, MacBooks are very intentionally designed. The back of a Mac is finer than the front of most PCs.

Switching to a Mac takes a bit of learning as a few keys are different (Ctrl = Command, for example). In terms of overall performance, I’d pick a Mac over a PC.

As regards phones, it can be difficult to locate files on your iPhone unlike an Android phone where you can access specific folders with ease. However, the iPhone’s camera is awesome. Also, the iPhone and Mac talk to each other so nicely that I can start working on my iPhone and continue that work on my Mac, seamlessly.

And let’s not forget the vanity effect: you are automatically respected as a creative, when you use Apple products (I see Windows and Android users protesting already).

Speaking Engagement/Media

I made 9 appearances on TV stations. From Voice of America to NTA, and from BCOS to IATV, it was fun sharing my thoughts on grants, social media and entrepreneurship. I also featured on AXA Mansard’s Safe Cruise on Smooth FM where I discussed ‘What to do when no one supports your SME business’.

I spoke at 24 conferences. It was particularly refreshing to speak at Hon Akin Alabi’s seminar. He organized an empowerment program for his constituents on how they could start and grow their small businesses. I spoke about how they could attract grant funding. I respect Hon Akin Alabi and his immense contribution to the success of SMEs in Nigeria. It was nice seeing him in person.

I also taught a series of classes on ‘Grant and Proposal Writing for Nonprofits’ for the American Spaces (of the American Consulate). The feedback has been amazing.

My sessions have been described as ‘super inspiring’ and ‘energetic’. If you’d like to book me for a speaking engagement, head here.

If you wish to start speaking at events, share your thoughts on social media regularly, contribute meaningfully to any organization or association you belong, and, wherever possible, network with journalists. Trust me, journalists are always looking for interesting people doing interesting things.


  1. Quantic EMBA Scholar

Getting into the prestigious Quantic Executive MBA was a dream come true. I have always wanted to sharpen my business skills with a top-notch MBA but I hated the idea of going back into a physical classroom. Quantic is both virtual and top-notch.

I applied for a scholarship and got 100% scholarship to join the executive MBA track. So far, the experience has been awesome. The mobile app and web app work seamlessly. The lessons are short, to the point and super insightful. I even inspired a few friends and a mentee to apply and they got in. If you’re looking for a 100% online MBA with some serious teeth, Quantic cuts it.


2. Google SDGs Awardee

Grant Master was selected as one of the top African startups for the Google SDGs for Africa program. As part of the program, I was paired with a coach, Anna Davda, the head of learning and development at Waymo (Alphabet’s self-driving car division). Anna inspires me and continues to support my growth as a leader. She has joined Grant Master’s advisory board (our first and only female advisory board member).


3. Africa Digital Innovation Competition: Top 10 Continental Finalist

Out of 1,706 entries in the 2022 Africa Digital Innovation Competition by U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Africa Business Center (USAfBC), Grant Master was selected as one of the top 5 startups in West Africa. After a round of pitching, Grant Master was selected as a top 10 continental finalist. Voice of America featured Grant Master on TV and across their social media platforms to highlight how we are helping ambitious organizations win grant funding.


4. USADF Grant Awardee

Talk about the perfect way to end the year: The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) selected Grant Master as a grant awardee due to our performance in the Africa Digital Innovation Competition. After all, we would not be ‘Grant Master’ if we could not win grants.


5. Awardee, 100 Most Influential Young Persons In Oyo State

The Ministry of Youths and Sports, Oyo State recognized me as one of the 100 Most Influential Youths in Oyo State, Nigeria in recognition of my work and accomplishments in using my office and influence to benefit young people and make a positive impact in my community.


6. SIHD Awards: Philanthropist of the year & Young achiever of the year

When people talk about last-minute surprises, this is what they mean. As a member of the Shanah Initiative for Human Development, it felt really amazing to be honored by the community on the very last day of 2022. I certainly did not see this coming.


  1. Fire

“Somebody call 911”

Jan 21 started like a normal day. I was preparing for work until I got a distress phone call from one of our cleaners: Olarem filling station was on fire. Our office is located just beside Olarem so you can imagine the speed with which I rushed to put on clothes and dashed to the office.

A petrol tanker had caught fire and it was right in front of the filling station. The heat was so much, it felt like hell fire on earth. I later learnt that the driver moved fast when He noticed it had caught fire and managed to drive it out of the premises to the main road. Another thing that saved us was the direction of the wind. The wind blew the fire across the road, away from our complex.

The team joined me. Emmanuel (my co-founder) and I tried to rescue the things we could: our portable tech gadgets and some laptops. We then waited it out while the fire fighters combatted the fire. One week later, we signed up for AXA Mansard’s fire insurance protection.


2. Pain

I had been struggling to sleep on my side for months and I took several trips to the hospital to find out what was wrong. I did different scans: MRI, X-ray, Ultrasound, and multiple times too. The doctors found a tiny mass in my liver. Of course, I was scared. I don’t drink or smoke so having liver cancer just didn’t make any kind of sense.

The doctors advised we monitor it for a few months to see if it would grow, it did not. But I just could not shake the feeling of having a mass inside my liver. It felt like having a ticking time bomb inside of me. I decided to remove it. And the Hepatectomy was a major, major surgery.

Immediately after the surgery, it took shaking me and screaming my name to be sure I was alive (I was told this part, of course I have no recollection of the first few hours). When I woke up the next day, I felt a crazy stinging pain like I’ve never felt. It was a struggle to move, to eat, to pee.

I spent one whole week at the hospital and then I was discharged. I spent another 5 weeks at home recovering before I could finally resume at work. A special thank you to my siblings and my Mum for being so supportive. Chidimma helped with hospital runs and She was truly helpful before, during and after the surgery. Thank you, Chidimma.

2023 = 33

I’ll be 33 this year. And I am so excited for the incredible things we are going to do together. I look forward to making new friends, seeing new places, empowering more SMEs and touching more lives.
Our lives on social media are carefully curated and edited to reflect mostly the good times. And this means that when you scroll through your social media feed, there is a tendency to think you are not doing enough or that the challenge you are facing is the worst there is. Your data size is small. Everyone is trying to climb a mountain. Celebrate yourself. Fire your excuses. Own your journey.

2022 was anything but easy for me. I did the things I did, ‘against all odds’.

2023 will come with its own set of challenges. Don’t let anything stop you.

After 5 surgeries, my view of life and death is radically different from that of an average person. Believe me when I say this “Life is short. Make it count while you can”