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At 22 years old, Entrepreneur & 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. After three career-ending soccer injuries, Sam co-founded PickWaste, a grassroots initiative that brings people together to pick up trash in their communities.

Since 2017, Sam has delivered over 200 presentations. His young age makes him extremely relatable to youth audiences and utterly inspiring for educators. In a few short years, his inspiring and entertaining presentations have reached thousands of students across North America. He’s delivered two TEDx talks and is the youngest board director of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers.

Please tell us about your 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.

The High Performing Student is a 7-video self-leadership course that teaches students around the globe about goal setting, visioning, weekly planning, organization, and accountability. I always leave some time open on my calendar for one-on-one calls with students who are looking for advice.

What did you learn from your work with youth?

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.

I’ve learned that youth are also great at reading non-verbal communication. They appreciate honesty and enjoy having one on one time with people who truly care about them.

Do you talk with youth about mistakes and 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. It wasn’t until 12am when he changed the music to 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 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 and learned how to say teach me in Spanish 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 stepping stone 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.

What advice would you give 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. Search for people who have overcome what you’re going through and consume as much of their beliefs and ideas as you can find.

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.

Find role models that you relate to and listen to their content until you embody their set of beliefs.

In your TEDxTalks you share the importance of friendship. Please share your experience and insights with our readers.

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. I came up with my 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 taught me that every human being has a desire to feel connected and included in the community. 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, the quicker you will make new friends and enjoy your schooling experience.

Why are friendships so important?

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 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 hinge on who you surround yourself with. 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.

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. You don’t need a large circle, but you need at least one person that will hold you accountable and believe in you.

Check out Sam’s incredible work and initiatives at:

Watch Sam’s TED Talk about making new friends:

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