Please note: This interview has been edited for increased clarity and readability. Comfort Adeoje’s views are still fully represented.
Comfort Adeoje is a final-year law student at the University of Warwick and a future trainee at an American law firm. She is also a founder of Circlo, a Christian mentorship program focused on corporate law; speaks four different languages; and has landed internships at several prestigious firms, showcasing her multifaceted skills and experiences.
But her journey has not been without trials and tribulations. Comfort’s talk ‘Resilience Reimagined - 5 Steps To Thrive From Square One’ for TEDxWarwick’s Student Salon ‘Square One’ addresses the importance of honing the life skill of resilience. Having faced different challenges herself, she learned how to start anew from square one and created a five-step strategy towards building resilience, ranging from setting firm goals to leaning on your support system.
Comfort shows that by building resilience, you can get through any setbacks that you will inevitably encounter in life. And whilst she has not perfected each step herself, these steps act as a constant guide in overcoming uncertainties.
What motivated you to share your experiences about starting from square one?
I remember having this dream of doing a TED talk in year 12. So, I have had this dream for a long period of time. I was also inspired by someone at Warwick, her name is Cassilda, who mentored me after having done a TED talk herself. Being in my final year of university and reflecting on the past three years of my degree, I feel like this event was the best time to do it. I have faced a lot of setbacks and challenges, and I have been able to learn and thrive from them along the way. Being able to inspire other people, especially now that we are in term two and people are busy with exams and going through different things, I want to show them that you can do it, you can thrive and succeed, even though you may feel like you are at a low point right now.
Throughout your talk, you use the analogy of taking the stairs towards the top floor of a library to describe building resilience. How did you come up with this analogy, and how does it guide you in your everyday life?
I personally like to understand things using analogies. I especially like to bring complex concepts to life by applying them to real-life examples. When I come into the FAB every day and climb the stairs, I think to myself: oh, this is a little bit like my life. There are six or seven floors in the FAB, depending on how many you want to count. These different floors can be representative of your life, as there is always going to be the next floor that you are going to have to climb up to. So, that is what inspired the analogy of comparing steps towards resilience to climbing those steps in the FAB. Also, when creating the library analogy, I thought of how my life can be thought of as a book. In the same way you see autobiographies in Waterstones or WH Smith, you can see the book about your personal life story in a library. So, my personal experiences on campus made me realise that the physical experiences around me are very similar to my actual life experiences.
What does resilience mean to you? And why do you think it is important for others to take conscious steps towards building resilience?
The best way I can define resilience is falling down and rising up again. But not just falling down because you tripped or were not watching where you were going, but rather falling down because life happens. There may be a deadline or a personal thing that happens in your life that pushes you to fall on the floor, but you rise up again. When you think about rising up again, you don’t need to return to the point that you were at before, you can still rise up halfway, and you can still be struggling. But the point is that you are still standing.
I think resilience is so important because it is a life skill. In the same way students come to university to get a degree, I believe there are certain skills in life that you need, resilience being one of them. Of course, you learn skills the corporate world wants you to have, such as attention to detail or communication. But I believe there are some life skills like resilience that will keep you going because at the end of the day, many different things happen in life, and the best way to overcome them is having true resilience. If you don’t have that skill, life is just going to hit you, and unfortunately, you won’t be able to rise up again. Resilience is a conscious skill that you have to build and requires discipline. The best way to do so is by overcoming setbacks. We often hear the notion that it is okay to fall, but it is equally important to rise up again. That is the only way I think resilience can be learned.
You mention the importance of having a support system when building resilience instead of the ‘hustle and grind’ narrative of making it to the top alone. Where do you think this mindset comes from; are there systems that encourage it?
In my opinion, the post-COVID world led to the emergence of this entrepreneurial wave, with this mindset of ‘I can create my own business, I can do it myself, I can do it all alone’, which is a completely fine perspective to have. But I think as a result of that, people have been sold the idea that they can apply this concept of doing everything by themselves, not just in business, but in other aspects of life. I feel like that does not need to be the reality. We are blessed with having people around us - we should grow with them and have them around through good and bad times and in moments of struggle and success.
What is your favourite way to take a break and unwind in your quest to achieve your goals? How do you ensure these breaks lead to productivity?
The best way to take breaks for me is to see my friends. Even if I am just in my house doing work, I will go downstairs to the living room to see if any of my flatmates are there and might disturb them to say hi. Or if I am in the Oculus on campus, I will just message my friends asking if they are on campus to quickly say hi. I think that is the best way to take breaks. Of course, there’s also the cheeky social media scroll, which can span from five minutes to an hour. But when taking breaks with my friends, I feel like it gives me a new perspective and a mind shift. Maybe I will be talking to them about my work or what is currently stressing me out, and we then share things and bounce off each other’s ideas, which makes life so much easier. That is how taking breaks balances with being productive.
Which chapter of your book ‘Resilience: A Life of Endurance’ are you currently in?
I think I am in the chapter of ending university in terms of finishing my degree and making sure I am proud of what I have achieved. I remember one of my friends asking me: “Why are you doing this TED talk?” For me, I feel like this TEDx talk marks the end of my chapter at university. I have been able to go through trials and setbacks, learn from them, and now I was able to share that learning with other people through this talk.
Have you mastered each step towards resilience, or are there specific areas you are still working on?
My mom tells me that there is always room for improvement - it is the biggest room in the world. So, there is always room for improvement in mastering every single step. However, if there is one step that I have not properly mastered, it is the idea of taking a break. I am a workaholic, and I love to work - that is one of the main things that keeps me going. But every step is to be mastered anew every time, and you will never master them perfectly. So, with each setback, you can refine the skills from these steps. Altogether, these steps act as a strategy to overcome setbacks, and as I mentioned in my talk, they become a blueprint for victory and serve as a reminder that if I did it before, I can do it again.
Starting from square one can be a blessing in disguise, even when it doesn’t seem so at the time. What is your main piece of advice for maintaining a positive mindset?
For me personally, the best way to maintain a positive mindset is by reaffirming my relationship with my faith - it is the thing that keeps me going. It is the idea that if I was able to face things before, I will be able to face them again. Also, I like to view challenges as a race: you have already run the first kilometre, and after the second kilometre, you think to yourself that you cannot keep going. Yet, if you were to keep going a little further you would have the finish line within sight, and you would realise that you can finish the race. Then, after the race, you take a breather and feel the excitement of knowing you managed to achieve your goals. So, I feel that positivity comes from knowing that things will work out.
Transcribed and edited by Lily Meckel.
The views and opinions presented in this interview belong to Comfort Adeoje — not Lily Meckel, nor TEDxWarwick.
If you have any questions concerning the interview, or opinions expressed, do feel free to comment in the comments section, or email email@example.com.