By Sam Demma - Entrepreneur and& Keynote speaker
At 22 years old, entrepreneur and keynote speaker Sam Demma doesn’t let his age define his drive or credibility. His goal is to provide students with the tools and strategies they need to become servant leaders in their schools, businesses, communities, and in the lives of those around them. Sam co-founded PickWaste, a grassroots initiative that brings people together to pick up trash in their communities. Sam has delivered over 200 presentations. His young age makes him extremely relatable to youth audiences and utterly inspiring for educators. He’s delivered two TEDx talks and is the youngest board director of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers. There’s no limit to where small actions will take this big thinker.
My work with youth
There are three ways I currently work with youth; keynote speaking, online courses and
podcasting. Through keynote speaking I can share personal experiences and stories that will
educate students on topics including servant leadership, kindness, and personal development.
When keynote speaking, I’m often working with the administration of a school or conference to
create a message that will align with their desired goal or outcome.
The second way I work with youth in through online courses. The High Performing Student is a
7-video self-leadership course that teaches students about goal setting, visioning, weekly
planning, organization, and accountability. Over 400 students have engaged in the free
program and we’re building the second iteration of it right now. This course enables me to
share helpful advice and ideas with students from all around the globe at whatever time and
pace works for them.
Lastly, I always leave some time open on my calendar for one-on-one calls with students who
are looking for some advice or someone who will listen. I don’t have hundreds of hours to give,
but I always take the time to listen and respond to everyone who reaches out with questions or
Over the past three years, this work has taught me that today’s youth are resilient, creative,
and willing to proactively search for information that will help them improve the quality of their
present and future lives. Through their excitement for life, and their passion to learn, they
remind me to remain curious. Curiosity is the starting point of all innovation, and a short 15-
minute conversation with a student will remind you how quickly the world is evolving and how
much learning is available if you remain open-minded and curious.
I’ve learned that youth are also great at reading non-verbal communication. In my experience,
students can often determine whether you are sincere and genuine, or putting up a front. They
appreciate honesty and enjoy having one on one time with people who truly care about them.
More than anything, sometimes they just need someone who is willing to listen for the purpose
My message about mistakes & failure
I do! This important topic is usually covered while sharing a personal experience about learning
how to dance the Bachata, one of the most popular Latin dances. On vacation with family in
Costa Rica, I made the decision to visit the night club. The DJ was playing western music that I
could sign and dance to. It wasn’t until 12am when he changed the music from Drake to
Romeo Santos. From Post Malone to Prince Royce, and all these Latin artists that I knew
nothing about. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, I approached someone in the club
and asked them to dance. After 20 seconds my dancing partner said “un momento”, which
means “just a moment,” and she left me to dance with someone else…. My face turned red like
a tomato from embarrassment, and I immediately left to return to our hotel room. Most would
have considered this situation a failure. Instead, I used it as motivation to learn how to dance
before leaving this resort.
I began watching YouTube tutorials in the hotel room and learned how to say teach me in Spanish – Ensenam – so I could ask a local to teach me how to dance. Fast forward to the end of this vacation, not only did I successfully learn to dance, but I realized it's something that I love doing. My message to youth about failure is that with a positive mindset it can become a steppingstone to your future success. Failure is nothing more than feedback because of a decision you made. Proactively use that feedback to inform your next decision and you will continually improve.
My advice to youth who don’t feel like they have a trusted adult to help them in times of need
If you don’t have access to a trusted adult in times of need, I would recommend listening to and
reading the work of authors and people who you aspire to be like. The amount of free
information on the internet and on the shelves of libraries is astounding. Search for people
who have overcome what you’re going through and consume as much of their beliefs and ideas
as you can find. If success leaves clues, these people’s beliefs will be your blueprint. The
coolest part is that these can be individuals who you’ve never met and maybe never will.
Weeks after getting my driver’s license, my parents trusted me to drive to and from soccer
practice on my own. Practice started at 9 pm, ended at 10:30 and the drive was 45 minutes, so
every day I spent an extra hour and a half in the car. That quiet time alone is what inspired me
to begin listening to podcasts. I found a show that was specific for athletes called the “Sports
Motivation Podcast.” It was hosted by a professional football player named Niyi Sobo. In each
episode he would breakdown the mindset and habits you need to dominate your sport and
reach high level performance. I made a habit of arriving at practice 15-30 minutes early so I
could jot down notes from these interviews in a notebook I grabbed from the dollar store.
I still have those notes and as you read this, on average, I consume 2-3 hours of music and
interviews daily. You want to listen to and watch videos that reinforce powerful thoughts and
help you build positive beliefs. These are people I do not know and do not have access to but
hearing them speak helps me build my self-esteem and confidence. For me, this includes artists
and entrepreneurs like Russ, Eminem, Nipsey Hustle, Jay Shetty, Charlie Rocket, Gary
Vaynerchuck, Niyi Sobo and many more.
Find role models that you relate to and listen to their content until you embody their set of beliefs. Don’t underestimate the power of podcasts, books, and other media to reinforce positive beliefs and mindsets into your day-to-day life. It has changed my life and it can change yours as well.
My TEDxTalk about making new friends
Upon starting university, I was alone. As a result of taking a gap year and fifth year of
high school, all my friends were in their third year of university when I was just
beginning my first. This meant my classes were filled with seeming strangers and I had
to try to make friends. The first few weeks of university were very lonely and isolated.
It seemed like everyone on campus was glued to their phone screens and not interested
in meeting new people and making friends. Realizing that nothing was going to change
unless I began acting, I came up with my own personal challenge; One Day, One Person.
The challenge was simple. Introduce yourself and attempt to have a full conversation
with one new stranger every day. I started by introducing myself within our Facebook
student group and to my absolute surprise, over 200 students liked and commented on
the post expressing that they had experienced similar feelings and challenges when it
came to making friends on campus.
This little experiment helped me get out of my comfort zone and made university a
much more enjoyable experience for me. It taught me that every human being has a
desire to feel connected and included in community. Even the students who are glued
to their phones want to experience connection and may be too shy or nervous to
approach you, so instead they stare at their screens and engage online. If you feel
nervous introducing yourself to a stranger, congratulations you are human! It is very
likely that everyone you meet also feels the same way. The quicker you accept this
uncomfortable feeling and approach new friends anyway, the quicker you will make
new friends and enjoy your schooling experience.
The importance of friendships
As a soccer player, my position was known as midfielder. My main responsibility was to
receive the ball from the defense and successfully pass it forward to the offensive
players so we could score goals. My coach would always yell at me, “Sam!! Check your
shoulders!!” He wanted to ensure I was aware of who was around me so I wouldn’t
receive the ball and turn into an opposing player. Being aware of your surroundings
was required to make you successful on the soccer field. Similarly, your success and
happiness in life also hinges on who you surround yourself with, in other words, your
friends. The people you spend time with will rub off on you. Whether you like it or
not, you will slowly begin to assume their habits and beliefs. This doesn’t mean you
need to cut off all your friends and become a lone wolf. Just take note of how the
actions of your friends influence you.
You want friends that will keep it real with you while also being your biggest
supporters. When I made the decision to drop out of school and pursue my dreams,
this was my best friend, Lucas. He was one of the only people who believed in my
abilities more than I believed in myself. He constantly reminded me to bet on myself
and we would make time to meet up and talk about our dreams. I’m so grateful for our
friendship. You don’t need a large circle, but you need at least one person that will
hold you accountable and believe in you.
Friends are extremely important because by nature, human beings are social creatures.
We not only want community, but it is also necessary for our development and
fulfillment throughout our lives. There was a fascinating study based on a story in
Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, about a community called Roseto Valfortore. The
people that lived in this community had a strong sense of belonging with one-another
and a surprisingly low death rate from heart-attacks. Correlations have since been
made from studying this community that physical health cannot be measured in
isolation of someone’s culture and the community in which they live. Yes individual
actions and decisions are important, but this study proved that culture and community
also affect your well-being.
In conclusion, friends are important because they will be there to lift you up when
you’re felling down, cheer you on when you’re succeeding, and provide you with
memories and experiences that will last you a lifetime. Friends will provide you with a
sense of community, more fulfillment in your day-to-day life and according to Malcolm
Gladwell, better physical health and well-being.