December 17, 2023


Dear friend,

Just like my other articles, I do not intend to define the term “Comfort zone” because it is a buzzword thrown around a lot but in explaining why I think it is a dangerous place, I will explain with a very short personal story. Yes! I promise it will be short this time. 😀 Stay with me.

It was October 2014, a few months after my National Youth Service. I had returned to Lafia, Nasarawa State, North Central Nigeria. It was my home and I returned to the realities and comfort of my home. Just like every graduate, I began to look for a job so I packaged my CV, and together with my friend, Shammah William Jakheng, we went round every school within eyesight looking for a teaching job. Finally, I got an offer from a new school around the College of Education, Lafia. It was my induction day and the principal had assigned me to my class and introduced me to my students. We had discussed salary and if I could recall, I was to be paid #15,000/month = AU$60. Don’t give me that look. It was a lot of money to me at the time. Remember I was broke😀. However just while I was still finalizing induction, my closest friend and brother Barnabas Akyenyi Usman who had just gotten a job with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) called me and said I had to start coming to Lagos (South West Nigeria) that day to be a volunteer. I immediately asked him if I would be paid but to my utmost disappointment, he said there was no payment for volunteers. He added that we were only going to be given a stipend of #3000/week = AU$12. In addition, we were going live and work in a community and home which was not ours for 3months.

When I did the maths, I was going to be making #12,000/month = AU$48 which was less than what I will be making if I remained with the teaching job I just secured. Plus the pain of leaving my beloved Lafia and home- my comfort zone. When I tried to explain to Barnabas why I needed to stay back on the teaching job, he simply sent me a text and said “This is your opportunity to personal and International Development”. I was soon to realise the significance of that text message.

Are you getting tired of reading already? Please do not be, stay with me, I am getting to the juicy part of the story.

I took a leap of faith, went home and ran around family and friends and borrowed exactly #15,000 and that night in the company of Angela Joseph and Jemimah Sylnen Simon , we took a night bus from Akwanga, Nasarawa State and left our comfort zones to Lagos, a foreign land to me.

Fast forward to early 2015, I had finished volunteering and returned to Lafia, my comfort zone and started another process of job hunting just that this time I had returned with more skills from my Lagos journey. While I was looking for a job, Barnabas told me that his elder brother Isaiah Adigidzi Usman who was working in an NGO-Family Health Care Foundation (FAHCI) needed help with data entry and since I was pretty fast in using a computer, I opted to volunteer and help him. I did that for about 2 weeks and just when we finished, the organisation was recruiting for a Care and Support HIV/AIDS officer on a USAID funded project. I applied, went for an interview and got the job.

When the Executive Director Mary Noktilik called me the night after the interview, she told me she was impressed with my CV and the skills I had from volunteering in Lagos. Guys that’s how I got the job.

Now my first point:

I would have not gotten that job (which I loved) which was now paying me more than a teaching job if I did not leave my comfort zone to Lagos.

Few months later after I started the job, I applied for several scholarships using my (new experiences and skills) and I got awarded two fully funded prestigious scholarships to undertake a Masters in Public Health. The first was funded by the UK government and the second was funded by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Imagine being in a position where you were positively confused. Anyways I declined the scholarship by the WHO and traveled to the UK for a year. I know what you are thinking. Like why did I decline a scholarship from WHO? I know! that’s the position you can get into when you leave your comfort zone to build your skills😀.

Anyways, I graduated with a distinction in Public Health and returned to Nigeria but this time instead of going to Lafia (my comfort zone), I decided to remain in Abuja with my friend Barnabas who was still working with VSO.

AAP and some students during his VSO SDG Project

Although I had a distinction, I could not secure a job so I continued volunteering with VSO on its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) project where I went to secondary schools to raise awareness about the SDGs. While volunteering, I got a job at Youth Alive Foundation (YAF) through a recommendation from a former staff of VSO at the time Mr KIngsley Asukwo Udo. I hope you are connecting the dots?

Please note that at this point I had an additional comfort zone. It was no longer a place but my distinction in public health. I was enjoying the comfort zone of a Masters with degree distinction in Public health and did not want to proceed further and I thought I had arrived. I thought I had made in life. In my head, I felt like a king and I did not see any reason to go further with my academics.

Thank Heavens for my bride Squeezim( Anizoba Ezinne Zine-Zi )who kept fighting me to leave that comfort zone and keep late nights to write proposals and apply for PhD scholarships. After several fights with her and acknowledging her place in my life as a mentor, I decided to leave my comfort zone and began to apply for scholarships again until I got awarded a fully-funded Ph.D. scholarship to undertake research dear to my heart in Australia. Make no mistake, If you do not have a mentor in your life. Get one NOW. To understand this better read my story titled “Who is/are your Mentor (s)?

Now to my second point:

If I didn’t leave the comfort zone and the charade of my masters in Public Health, I would still have a masters and be comfortable by my standards but 5 years down the line. What would have happened?

Like my tutor Dr. Julie-Anne Carroll will say:

“In five years time, I will be five years older. Given that I will arrive there regardless, how do I want to arrive? In what state? Having achieved what?” (Dr. Julie-Anne Carroll, 2019)

Now I have left my comfort zone and I am studying for a higher degree and in 5 years because I left my comfort zone I will be better off. There is a lot to share but it can only be shared when the story is complete. I will share how I am better off in a few years. Stay with me…

In fact, do not misconstrue this; but my parents provided me a comfort zone and I enjoyed every bit of it but until I lost them both, I was not as challenged to struggle as a man. I regard their loss as an unfortunate but fortunate event in my life.

I am where I am because I left my comfort zone

Now to you:

What are your plans?

Further studies? Scholarships? A new job? A new house? Marriage? A new record deal/ label? A new laptop? It could be anything and can apply to every scenario.

If you do not leave your comfort zone, your chances of achieving them is limited.

In the words of Squeezim: “

“Do not be too comfortable where you are that you are distracted from climbing further”

AAP and Squeezim

In my opinion, being successful means a constant exit from your comfort zones. Your comfort zone can keep you stifled while you think you are growing. Your comfort zone is indeed a dangerous place. LEAVE NOW…

NOTE: The inspiration for this post came from my friend and sister Omotoyosi Ogunbanwo.

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