“Disconnect from everything long enough to see if it feeds your soul or if it’s a distraction. What’s deeply connected will always remain.”

~ Unknown

How long could you disconnect from all your social media channels? A day? A week? A month? NEVER?

This week I had a conversation with my friend and speaker colleague Sam Demma about why he decided to take a year-long ‘social sabbatical’. Yup, one whole year with zero social media. If the thought of that makes you twitch then I encourage you to think about how much time you spend scrolling social, and what else you could be doing with that time.

Then watch the video below, or read the transcript that follows to learn what motivated Sam to take such bold action, and plan a social sabbatical of your own.


Michelle: Hey, Michelle Cederberg here with the first of my monthly interviews with people that I’m interested in chatting to. And I’m happy to introduce to you my friend and speaking colleague, Sam Demma. At 21 years of age, this entrepreneur youth coach and keynote speaker, doesn’t let his age define his drive or his credibility. His goal is to provide people of all ages with tools and strategies that they need to become the change makers in their schools, businesses communities, and in the lives of those around them. You have to spend time learning about this guy.

He started a program when he was 17, called PickWaste, which is a grassroots initiative that brings people together to pick up trash in their communities. He’s still working on that program today, many years later. And in a few short years, his inspiring and entertaining presentations have reached thousands of students across Canada. His High-Performing Student Program has made a difference for young people in six countries around that world. (I don’t know if that number is higher now, Sam.) He’s delivered two TED Talks, he is the youngest professional member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers. (That’s where I met him), and there’s no limit to where small actions will take this big thinker. So I want to say welcome Sam. I’m thrilled to be chatting with you today.

Sam: Michelle, your energy is so infectious. I just want you to come with me to every talk and do the intro.

Michelle: I’ll just be your introducer, right?

Sam: That would be cool.

Michelle: Sam is pretty energetic, too. If you guys haven’t already figured it out, I’m a big fan of this young guy who is 30 years my junior. So, I say small actions will take you to big thinking. What do you talk about when you talk to people?

Sam: Yeah, the whole idea is something that came from my high school teacher, and it was that small consistent actions can lead to a massive global change. And I know you embody that as well.

Michelle: I know.

Sam: Your book title, your subtitle, right, is almost small-

Michelle: Small Steps to an Energetic Life.

Sam: Yeah. I was going to say that’s crazy. And, I think it’s a philosophy that’s been around for thousands of years. What makes it unique is the story that ties along with it, which you touched upon with Pick Waste, and how one coffee cup, (a Tim Horton’s coffee cup), led to filling up all these bags of garbage and volunteering with kids.

Michelle: Which is absolutely amazing. I could talk to Sam, honestly, for hours and hours. But today I want to talk with him about a really interesting challenge that he’s given himself that’s going to make a lot of you twitch. Now, I did say that Sam is 21 years old. Can you please tell my viewers what you are doing over the next year?

Sam: Yeah. So, you know how sometimes when you’re working your corporate job and you need to just take a year off, you take a sabbatical, a work leave, or whatever it might be? Well, I decided I was going to do something similar, although I don’t work a corporate job. And so, I made the decision to take a year off social, and I named it, ‘the Social Sabbatical’.  There are a couple of reasons behind it, but the overarching reason was that the idea of doing so caused me so much mental friction, and I think that anything that causes you a ton of mental friction is probably …

Michelle: …Something worth exploring. Just hold onto that thought for a minute, because I want to repeat what he just said. He’s taking one year off of all social media. So no Instagram, no Facebook, no LinkedIn. Are you doing YouTube?

Sam: No.

Michelle: He’s doing emails. So, most 21-year olds have this thing [phone] connected. You always know exactly where it is, and Sam has decided “No, I’m going to shut off from all of that.” He posted his plan on his Instagram, and I saw the it and I’m like, “Wow”, because I can’t imagine it. Can you imagine it? So, I sent him an email and I said, “So Sam, you’re doing this thing. Why?” And he sent me a long email that explained it so well I want to share it with you. The first you shared really intrigued me. What was your number one reason for wanting to do this?

Sam: Yeah. The first reason for taking the Social Sabbatical, was due to business. I did an audit of where all my impact and income has come from and been generated from. And over the past-

Michelle: And let me be clear, Sam is a self-employed motivational speaker and coach at the age of 21. So, he’s self-employed. He’s never had a real job, a corporate job. Neither have I…  well, I’ve had one. But, so there you go. Sorry to interrupt. You did an audit of how you were using your time. Is that right?

Sam: Yeah, exactly. I asked myself, “how many hours do I spend on average on social media, and how many speaking gigs or coaching opportunities have come directly from that time spent on the apps?” I found that on average, some days more hours than less, some days less than more, I spend three hours per day. So, I asked myself in the span of a whole year, how long is that? Did the math, 1,095 hours. Well, over two years, almost 2,100 hours, and in total, I booked two speaking gigs from social media connections. So, it’s like, okay, I can-

Michelle: So then, you’re kind of going, why bother?

Sam: Yeah. It’s like, I can exchange that time for this, or it takes me on average six hours to read a book. I can read 182 books in one year, or almost 400 in two years. What’s more valuable? And, one of the books would be yours.

Michelle: Sam did read the book. He was one of the few people who got a preview copy of my book, The Success-Energy Equation: How to Regain Focus, Recharge Your Life, and Really Get Sh!t Done. And in that book, I talk a lot about device distraction. In getting shit done, it’s all about shutting shit off, which is what Sam is doing. So, you realize that if you do this, you’re going to have endless amounts of time to drive your business forward, to drive your education forward, to just do better for yourself.

Sam: It’s true. It’s true. And I can become a true expert in what I want to learn, and share with others, and be of way more value to others. Instead of just posting pics, I can read books and learn more things about the stuff I’d like some help with.

Michelle: Well, let’s talk about that posting pics, because one of the other things you said, the reason why you’re doing this, is because you wanted to push that ego aside. Say more about that.

Sam: Reason two was to dismantle my ego. But, essentially what that means is, to get rid of that piece of my brain that wants validation from others, that wants to compare myself to others, that wants to feel accepted by getting hundreds of likes and having everyone know how amazing I am. I’m 21 years old. I’ve used social media for multiple years, sometimes to a fault. I think I haven’t used it as effective as I could have. Most of my posts are of service to others, but there are a dozen or so, here and there, that are all about, “Hey, look what I’m doing. I’m amazing.” And that’s not a bad thing or good thing. I just think it’s not the best way to use the platform, and I want to get rid of that feeling to have to always validate myself and compare myself to others.

Michelle: Yeah, and what’s interesting about that for me is that most people will use their social to post what they’ve been doing. I did it this past weekend. Yesterday I went mountain biking. I went golfing. I posted them both. I did very little about business, and I, too, like it when people say, “Hey, it looks like you’re having fun. Look at your life. Wow. Looks amazing.”

Sam: But I would even argue, that makes you human. My stuff was all related to business. It was, look how great I am. Just spoke at the school. Like how great I am, I just spoke-

Michelle: Oh, I do that, too. Make no mistake. I just haven’t been speaking that much lately.

Sam: I’m with you.

Michelle: If you could browse Sam’s social, you’d see that he’s a very busy, active person in his business, speaking for schools across North America, and running his high performance student program. And I would say that you don’t have ego. So, when you go back to social, I say post it. Let people know what you’re doing, because that’s part of how people know what you’re up to. But, I will say this: How I tend to conduct myself is ‘attraction rather than promotion’. I’d rather be out there doing good, and let people find me and see me – which I’m sensing is where you’re at – than posting say, “Hey, look at me. Hire me. Do this. Hire, hire.” And maybe I should be better at promotion, but it doesn’t feel authentic.

Sam: Yeah.

Michelle: I’d rather just, as you are suggesting, go out in the world, conduct your life, and attract the right people to you. Does that resonate with you?

Sam: It’s true. And, if someone’s listening who gets all their business or friendships off social media, don’t take this to an extreme and shut it down. Do your own social media audit. Figure out what’s working for you, what’s not, how you can optimize it. There’s a amazing book that I just started reading as well, that is just as great as yours, Michelle, called Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.

Michelle: Oh, yes.

Sam: And he talks about using social very minimally, and when you do use it, use it to the best of its ability.

Michelle: Which is a great point. And, I give some points like that in my book saying, it’s not realistic for all of us to go a year off social. I can’t right now, because I’m going to be promoting my book all through social. And yet, at the same time, I really took your challenge to heart and ask myself, how could I be using my time better? Whether it’s choosing to post very strategically, or not have my phone near me on the weekends, what are some small digital detoxes or mini weekly sabbaticals that you, my dear viewer, can take to lessen your usage?

So, is there anything else that you want to share about why you said you wanted to do this, and is that pretty much it?

Sam: The third reason was just to do an experiment. I thought it’d be really cool. Everyone right now is stuck at home using social media, now more than ever. I thought it’d be really cool if I just zigged when everyone zagged, and it’d be the total opposite. Document the things. See what would happen in my life, and if I could share with others to be of value.

Michelle: Yeah, which is wonderful. I’m hoping at the end of it that you’ll write a book about it, or something like that. I’m just suggesting.

Sam: Yeah, I’ll come out a bald Monk, and I’ll have infinite wisdom.

Michelle: Well, if you’re reading six books a month, is that what you said?

Sam: I’m trying to read two books a week.

Michelle: Well, you’re a prolific reader, and that’s something that you love, and so I admire that. That’s another thing that made me think, six books? Two books a week. I’d like to get through one book a month. And so, for my viewers, I wanted to chat with Sam because I’m super impressed by this guy’s energy and drive, and the work that he’s doing. And what the heck, taking a year off social! I wanted to share with you all what he shared with me about his reasons why, so that maybe you would think a little bit more about how you use your time, and perhaps gain small takeaways from Sam’s energetic mission that you could use for yourself.

Michelle: Sam has a wonderful program called the High Performing Student, and I’m going to get him to share it with you. First of all, what is the High Performing Student?

Sam: It’s a program that helps people use different tools and strategies to eventually reach their goals and dreams, and to develop some systems in their life.

Michelle: And it’s typically for what group?

Sam: It’s geared towards high school student. Although, as we talked about earlier, we’ve had some other ages try it and also benefit. One 38-year old guy named Brian gave it a shot. And we’ve had some younger kids as young as age 10, give it a try, and they’ve had some great value as well.

Michelle: Now the beauty of this program right now is it’s self guided, and it’s super affordable. So, if you have teenagers in your life that are in high school, or just starting university, or if you’ve got tweens that are driven and need something to dig their online schooling into, may I please recommend Sam Demma’s, The High Performing Student Program. And I am not even kidding, super affordable. Tell them how much it is, Sam.

Sam: It’s $19. The reason I made it so affordable was because I wanted any student, (and student being anyone who wants to learn and grow, it’s not just a kid in class)… I wanted any person to be able to afford it themselves, or to be able to ask their parents and say, “Hey, can I have 20 bucks – not to buy Subway, or to go to McDonald’s, or to watch a movie – but to buy this program that’s going to teach me how to create a vision, and set goals, and create weekly plans, and all this geeky stuff that you and I would love talking about.”

Michelle: How many weeks is it?

Sam: Seven weeks. Because it’s self paced, though, you can work at it as long as you want. You can finish it all in two, three days, or you can do one hour once a week. That’s what I would recommend.

Michelle: Sam has prerecorded these sessions in one of his pilots, and so he has videos of himself as engaging and energetic as you’re seeing now, sharing his wisdom. And I’m telling you again, 21 years old, wise beyond his years, because he’s read more books in his lifetime than I probably have in mine. So, how can people find you, Sam? How can they learn more about you?

Sam: Not on social media.

Michelle: No, not for a little while yet.

Sam: If you want to chat, I’m always open and happy to have a conversation. Send me an email via www.samdemma.com, and that’s really the only place to find me right now.

Michelle: Well, I’m going to keep giving plugs, because we are in COVID times. Sam and I are both professional speakers and coaches. We are used to being in front of in-person audiences. That is not happening for the foreseeable future. So, if your organization is looking for interesting and engaging talks about goal setting and success from a young leader, consider getting in touch with Sam at www.samdemma.com, because he, like me, has a home studio and has been providing these online sessions. And so, hey, you could have an event and have the young guy opening, and have the more seasoned veteran, closing. We could have a whole lot of fun.

Sam: I was going to say, if you’re crazy enough to be on this list, and have not already worked with Michelle, you better do that first and then you can come find me.

Michelle: Yeah. So thank you for your time today, Sam, and for all my viewers, do think about what a social sabbatical could look like for you. If it’s not a year, how long can you give yourself a break from your devices? Could it be a month? Could it be a week? Could it be every Sunday so you can focus on your family? Could it be every evening after nine o’clock? Every single bit of time that we take away from our devices, I believe helps our brains to be enriched, and helps our quality of life to improve. You got any final thoughts on that, Sam?

Sam: Do something that gives you friction, mentally. I think that’s the biggest piece I could give. If it’s not giving up social, do something else that you really don’t want to do, because it’ll make you grow as a person and a human being.

Michelle: Everything good happens outside the comfort zone. That is one of my mantras. Thanks for your time today, Sam.

Sam: Thanks, Michelle. Keep rocking.

It may be awhile until we call all gather safely in large groups, but that doesn’t mean your team doesn’t still need training, education and even inspiration. I’ve set up a home studio, and have been providing online sessions since April that are tech-sound, fun and interactive! If your organization needs a break from the work-from-home routine to learn how to boost resilience, work-life balance and productivity, reach out to chat about my engaging online sessions!

Michelle Cederberg, CSP, MKin, BA Psyc

Empowering today’s dreamers, leaders and go-getters to create the life and career they want.


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