From ‘Bad Blood’ to Big Wins: My 2023 Story of Pain & Personal Growth

Ogunbowale Olugbenga
12 min readDec 31, 2023


When Spotify informed me “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift was my top song for 2023 — played a whopping 710 times — it suddenly made sense. This year, I made difficult decisions and navigated challenging relationships, yet I functioned effectively. But it wasn’t all “Bad Blood.” I also fell in love, won 6 awards, hung out with a billionaire, and earned my MBA. This is neither the beginning nor the end of my story.

Over the past decade, I have shared deeply personal experiences, professional milestones, and life hacks that helped me navigate each year. I shared my review in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 with you, hoping to inspire and energize your journey into the new year.

Here’s a glimpse into how my 2023 unfolded:


I saw 30 movies this year. Here are my top 2:

  1. Gangs of Lagos

If you must see a Nigerian movie today, let it be Gangs of Lagos. The story revolves around three best friends, Obalola, Ify, and Gift, who were born and raised in Isale Eko, a place dominated by politically affiliated gangs. Tragically, Ify, a peace-loving local musician, meets his end at the hands of someone he saw as a father figure. This sparks a massive gang war in Isale Eko, as Obalola and Gift seek vengeance for Ify’s death.

Tobi Bakre nailed his role as ‘Obalola’. He brought passion and action. You would be forgiven for thinking this was a Hollywood blockbuster: the action scenes came across as real and engaging. The cinematography was excellent! What kind of camera was used to film this masterpiece? I love how Tobi Bakre narrated huge portions of the film. The narrations helped shape the arc of the story. The story closely mirrored Nigerian politics, especially how politicians and their cronies manipulate their followers to seek power at the expense of human life and national development. I couldn’t shake off the feeling that this film was inspired by the lives of real Nigerian politicians with one name particularly coming to mind. The opening montage was terrific! It gave Game of Throne vibes. Gangs of Lagos is undoubtedly one of the best Nollywood movies ever. Period.

2. The Founder

I saw, ‘The Founder’, a movie about the origins of Mc Donalds. The brothers Dick and Mac created a super-fast, super-efficient fast-food restaurant but when they tried to franchise, they failed. That is until Ray Kroc came along. Ray was a struggling salesman when He visited Mc Donalds (they made an order for several milkshake makers He was selling). Ray spotted an opportunity. He cut a deal with the brothers to sell Mc Donalds franchises for a 1.9% cut of the revenue but He soon ran out of money. Ray’s margins were tight, and He barely had any capital. He had mortgaged his house and was in serious financial trouble. Then, a financial expert who overhead Ray’s conversation with his banker pitched him a string of hit ideas. He showed him that He was in the real estate business, not burgers. Ray eventually bought out the brothers and scaled Mc Donalds internationally. What are the lessons here? See and seize opportunities. Dream big. Believe in your vision. Make bold bets. Surround yourself with the right people.


I read eight books this year. Here are my top two:

  1. Elon Musk

Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson is, in my opinion, the book of the year. Walter had unfettered access to Elon for 2 years and shared many stories and examples of How the richest man in the world thinks and works. Elon is literally from another planet! I noted 2 sets of lessons.

Raising kids, dreaming big

1. Expose kids to books and science experiments early.

2. Expose kids to computers early.

3. Read books, over and over, to feed your imagination, curiosity, dreams, and future ambitions.

4. There must be things that inspire you, that move your heart: making science fiction not fiction, is one of those.

Education and learning

1. Attend conferences where experts on your area of interest will speak.

2. Pursue education that enables you to be in control of your destiny.

3. Before venturing into any industry, devote yourself to study.

4. Commitment to mastering a skill or challenge, even in leisure activities, can reflect one’s natural inclination and drive in professional pursuits.

2. Psychology of Money

If you want to improve your relationship with money significantly, then you have to read The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. It’s a fantastic book that explains why we act the way we do around money and the role of luck and risk in building wealth. This is the kind of book you give to family and friends. After all, you are better off surrounded by rich people than by broke people.

Here are my two favorite lessons:

1. Luck & Risk

Luck and risk are siblings. They are both the reality that every outcome in life is guided by forces other than individual effort. Some people are born into families that encourage education; others are against it. Some are born into flourishing economies encouraging of entrepreneurship; others are born into war and destitution. Realize that not all success is due to hard work, and not all poverty is due to laziness. Keep this in mind when judging people, including yourself.

2. Confounding Compounding

The big takeaway from ice ages is that you don’t need tremendous force to create tremendous results. If something compounds — if a little growth serves as the fuel for future growth — a small starting base can lead to results so extraordinary they seem to defy logic. It can be so logic-defying that you underestimate what’s possible, where growth comes from, and what it can lead to. And so, it is with money. Buffett’s fortune isn’t due to just being a good investor, but being a good investor since he was literally a child. Buffett began serious investing when he was 10 years old.


I bought my most expensive online course yet: Udacity AI Product Manager. I was already reading up on anything and everything AI, and taking the course helped me understand how to build AI products as a startup founder.

I also trained AI models to detect pneumonia from chest X-ray images. Shocker: I got into serious financial trouble with the bills. When training AI models, you have to set limits and keep an eye on your bills. Lesson learned. Meanwhile, AI is changing the world. Figure out how AI will affect your job or business and upskill. Fast.

I enrolled for a fully online MBA at Quantic School of Business and Technology last year (on a full scholarship), and it’s been a terrific experience. The learnings, assignments, and projects made me a more effective leader. I worked with the amazing Team 1 on our Quantic Capstone business plan and presentation. We got 5/5 in both.

I’m thrilled to have graduated from Quantic with my MBA this November, completing the 15-month journey! I documented six key lessons from my experience at Quantic. You can read them here. I was also selected to deliver a commencement speech, speaking from the heart to my classmates. You can watch it here.

If you want to get into Quantic on a full or partial scholarship, start here.

Grant Master:

I co-founded Grant Master in 2020 to help impact-driven organizations access grant funding. And we hit major milestones in 2023:

  1. In 2023, we worked on 2 SAAS products. One is AI-powered. If you want to win grant funding in 2024, watch out for these game-changing products.
  2. In January, we launched the 3rd edition of our Creative Writers Fellowship to train aspiring grant writers for free.
  3. In June, Grant Master won the “Fundraising champion of the year” award by Origo international (Canada).
  4. In December, Grant Master won the “international business of the year award” by YALI Network (Oyo).
  5. Most importantly, we helped numerous clients secure grant funding. To hire Grant Master, visit here.

And just in case your internet bills are getting out of hand, try Starlink. The day Starlink launched in Nigeria, we ordered it. It proved to be a fantastic decision as we stopped worrying about data caps. The entire team surfs the web fast for a flat, affordable fee of N38,000 each month.


I founded The Orphan Empowerment Society (TOES) in 2016 to lift African orphans out of poverty. If you’ve never been to an orphanage or an IDP camp, you may have seen homeless kids on the street. These kids typically have little food, education, or prospects. TOES is working hard to change this bleak reality.

Volunteers of TOES in action across Nigeria, Zambia and Sierra-Leone

This year, we made significant progress on our mission:

  1. In December alone, we empowered over 150 orphans with digital skills training, free medical care, food, clothing, and other critical supplies.
  2. We held outreaches in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Zambia (team Botswana went to Zambia).
  3. In Ogun state, we empowered teens at Blessed Assurance Orphanage, Ikenne Remo.
  4. In Oyo state, we empowered teens at Oyiza orphanage, Oke Ado. With volunteers from TOES Oyo, I led the digital skills training on prompting. We showed the teens how to use chatbots like ChatGPT. Watch out for these digital dynamos.

Thanks to all our volunteers, partners, and donors. Want to join the TOES community? Start here.


Accountability partnership works:

During our most recent accountability partnership meeting: Ehindero Esther x Olugbenga Ogunbowale

Ehindero Esther has been my accountability partner (AP) since 2021, and I am grateful for our partnership. Our weekly meetings kept me on my toes. Knowing I couldn’t give excuses to Esther, I would take tangible steps during the week to have progress updates for our meetings. I did the same to support her. This accountability is why I achieved over 70% of my goals. Dear AP, thanks for your support. Let’s do it again in 2024.

MC Gbenga on the MIC:

Mogbekeloluwa Koye-Ladele on a visit to my office

I don’t normally MC events (it’s been years!). So, I was surprised when my friend Mogbekeloluwa Koye-Ladele invited me to MC the book launch of his late father, Rev. Koye Ladele. Though it was the same day as a major TOES outreach, I carefully planned my day to accommodate both. Rev. Koye lived a good life and left a strong legacy. I was glad to play a role in the successful book launch.


Earlier this year, my weight reached 74.2kg. As I approached 80kg, I knew I needed to change. I incorporated daily walks and began taking at least 2,000 steps daily. I’m also practicing food portion control and eating healthier.

Lesson learned: Habit stacking (adding a new habit to an existing one) works. My evening walk routine is to eat, wash dishes, brush my teeth, and then walk.

Now, let’s talk about pain. As someone with genotype AA, I seem prone to malaria fevers since people with AA are more susceptible than those with AS. This year, I was treated for malaria constantly, making me worry that “died battling malaria” could end up on my tombstone!

I took pills and injections and even tried an ultrasonic pest repellant I ordered from Amazon (it turned out to be a total waste of money). It wasn’t until I found all the mosquito entry points and blocked them that I finally found relief.

Key lesson: When truly desperate to change your circumstances, you will find a way forward.


I founded Epower in 2017 to accelerate the application of digital skills to the economy. As cyberbullying became the number one school safety issue, Google offered grants in 2021 for organizations to develop internet safety programs. Epower applied and won funding to create the Cyber Hygiene App: an interactive gaming app training teens on online etiquette, safety, and handling cyberbullying.

We developed written content, videos, and games tailored to students, parents, and teachers. Within the first 30 days of launching Cyber Hygiene App, we had over 1,000 users. We pitched the app to 45 secondary schools for distribution.

This year, we won Google funding again through the Africa Online Safety Fund, which will allow us to expand the project's scope. We will add school clubs, a new target city, and content on generative AI. Expect fireworks!

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

Speaking Engagements & More Awards

My speeches and workshops have been described as “energetic,” “inspiring,” and “game-changing.” I spoke on various topics this year, including grant writing, business and entrepreneurship, leadership and personal development, and digital skills.

I gave a pivotal talk at Kehinde Capacity Builder’s “Raise Your Game” event. I took the audience on a journey through my education, sharing personal stories and lessons learned.

Engineer Blessing Aderohunmu, one of my church fellowship leaders (Charis) while I was an undergraduate at Obafemi Awolowo University, invited me to City of Christ Church, in Arepo, Ogun state, to discuss “How to Raise Funding for Your Business.” He married his Uni sweetheart, so even though I’m still single entering 2024, this gives me hope that next year will be mine!

Olugbenga Ogunbowale with the Aderohunmu’s

I also organized several virtual events, including guides to the Chevening Scholarship and Mandela Washington Fellowship.

I was invited to speak at 22 events this past year. If you’d like to book me to speak at your event in 2024, click here.

In addition to the awards already mentioned, I was honored by Junior Chamber International UI (Appreciation award), Nigerian Medical Laboratory Science Students’ Association UI (Leadership Excellence Award), and YALI Network Oyo (Impact Award).


I moved to a new apartment for the second year in a row. My former caretaker had become overbearing, necessitating a change.

The move was stressful but worthwhile. I transitioned from an area with poor electricity and manageable roads to a proper estate. I also went from a house with many neighbors to one with fewer neighbors, resulting in less drama.

Oddly, I have my difficult former caretaker Mr. P., to thank for spurring me to find a better living situation.

Tony Elumelu

Olugbenga Ogunbowale with Tony Elumelu

As a Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Fellow and mentor, billionaire Tony Elumelu invited me to his birthday celebration. I didn’t want to show up empty-handed, so I carefully selected gifts — a branded t-shirt and an impact award. Tony’s $5,000 grant in 2017 was instrumental in helping my small business get off the ground. I presented the gifts to Tony in person. He especially appreciated the shirt. Thank you for everything, Tony!

Plan like Gbenga

I live by Peter Drucker’s maxim “You cannot manage what you cannot measure.” If you’re interested in my planner templates for goal setting, weekly planning, and financial tracking, connect with me on LinkedIn and send me a message. I’m happy to share them for free.


In the same year I experienced the most conflicts, I fell in love — proof that beauty can emerge from chaos. If your life is going well, double down on what’s working. If it feels like a dumpster fire, grab a fire extinguisher and start making changes. Be intentional in 2024. The year is going to pass; don’t let it pass you by.