Mark Black

Mark Black

Mark’s life changed forever at 23 years old when a doctor told him that without a rare, life-saving transplant, he would be dead by 25. Heart and double-lung transplants are extremely rare, and Mark was told his odds of receiving one in time were virtually zero. Facing imminent death, and with no other options, Mark moved 1500km away from his home and family, waiting for a miracle.

On September 7, 2002, Mark was one of seven Canadians to receive a heart and double-lung transplant that year. Three years later, he became the only man in history to complete a marathon with someone else’s heart and lungs.

A few years after completing his first marathon, Mark accidentally discovered his love for speaking. Invited to address the graduates of a local high school, Mark shared some of the life lessons he learned while facing death and enduring tremendous challenges. The speech was so well received, a parent came up after the speech to hire him to speak at his company. And a career was born.

Mark has had the privilege of speaking in 10 of Canada’s provinces and 15 US states at hundreds of schools and conferences. He combines humour, his relatable nature and great story-telling with insightful life lessons that teens can apply immediately to their lives.

    When Mark isn’t travelling North America to speak, he resides near Moncton, NB.

Mark Black’s Speech Titles & Descriptions


Leadership: Do the Hard Thing
We often tell students to do “the right thing” and so they should, but Mark has discovered the path to achieving anything of meaning is also to “do the hard thing.”  We live in a world where convenience and ease are valued more highly than determination and grit. When students believe that better means easier they risk missing out on some of the best parts of life.

In this thought-provoking and inspiring program; Mark shares how the best things in his life came out of what initially seemed like terrible situations. Students learn practical strategies for reframing their challenges and embracing their flaws to become the best version of themselves.

Key Take-Aways:

  • Your results are created by your decisions. If you don’t like your results; change your decisions.
  • The more we avoid our challenges, the bigger and scarier they become. The best way to deal with your problems is to face them head on.
  • Action creates results: it is great to dream and to have a positive attitude, but unless you DO something, nothing will change.
  • The most successful people are also the most determined: If you never quit, you won’t always win, but you will never truly lose.

Duration: 50-65mins  Suitable for: Grades 7-12



Teens are more anxious and stressed than ever before. 34% of high school students now indicate a moderate to serious level of psychological distress. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in people aged 15-24, it doesn’t have to be.

Even while working as a “motivational speaker” Mark struggled with anxiety disorder and depressive episodes for years. He has experienced how it feels, and he wants to help. Mark is not a therapist or psychiatrist. He is just someone who has been there and found a way out.

In this powerful presentation, Mark incorporates humour and humility to open an authentic and encouraging dialogue and provide a safe space for students dealing with depression and other mental health struggles. Students will learn practical strategies to cope and learn it is okay to ask for help.

Key Take-Aways:

  • Permission to talk: students will be encouraged to talk to people they trust about how they feel
  • Acceptance: teens need to feel accepted. Mark helps students accept themselves for who they are
  • How to get help: Posting the crisis / suicide hotline number is not enough. Mark provides students with a number of resources and ways to get help after the presentation.

Duration: 50-65mins  Suitable for: Grades 9-12 & University/College audiences


GOAL-SETTING: You CanNOT do Anything
Too often we patronize teens with meaningless motivational messages. “You can do ANYTHING” is a phrase most teens have heard in some form or another, they immediately tune out, because they know… it’s not true! That is unfortunate, because what IS true is that they can do a lot more than they think.

In this honest and real presentation, Mark shares real motivation tips that WORK. Leaving behind the empty platitudes, Mark gets to the core of how peak performers stay motivated and what teens can do to ensure that they set themselves up for success.

Using his powerful personal example, Mark shows students that if he can run 26.2 miles with someone else’s heart and lungs, they can achieve what they want to achieve – provided they are willing to do what it takes.

Key Take-Aways:

  • Focus: You can’t do everything, but you can do something pretty amazing if you focus
  • Vision: If you don’t know what you want, there is little chance you will get it.
  • Planning: Goals aren’t realized overnight. They usually take years of dedicated effort. What is your action plan for success?
  • Handling Failure: The question is not IF you will fail, but when. Are you ready?
  • GrIt: If you will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes, you will find success

Duration: 50-65mins  Suitable for: Grades 7-12 & University/College audiences


It’s no secret that bullying is a HUGE problem in schools today. The statistics are staggering. The CDC quotes suicide as the 3rd leading cause of death among teens and victims or bullying are between 2 and 9 times more likely to commit suicide than their peers. Scary stuff. So what do we do?

Mark has an engaging and powerful, personal bullying story. At 4’11″ Mark was a victim of serious bullying as a student and found a way to overcome his bullies to succeed. He relates to students because he’s been there. But more importantly, Mark doesn’t just share a personal story of overcoming bullying, but he actually provides a SOLUTION.

Mark’s bullying prevention program takes a two-tiered approach to the issue of bullying, focusing on empowering victims and engaging bystanders. Too much attention and resources are focused on the problem (‘the bully’) instead of on the solution (empowering the victims and student leaders who should support them). Issues addressed in this presentation include:

Key Take-Aways:

  • How to not be a victim: You can influence a bully’s decisions by how you react
  • Develop authentic self-esteem: The most powerful position you can ever be in is when you truly do not care what anyone else thinks of you
  • What bullies can do: Learn to see bullying behaviour in yourself so that you can stop
  • What bystanders can do: If you can create a school culture where no one accepts bullying behaviour, you will never have a problem with bullying again.

Duration: 50-65mins  Suitable for: Grades 7-12


LEADERSHIP: Show Up, Shut Up, Step Up
Mark has had the opportunity to meet many people who have had to face death, he has had to face death himself. Through that experience Mark learned that at the end of our lives, we won’t care how much money we’ve made nearly as much as we’ll care about how much of a difference we’ve made.

Students are bombarded with media messages that tell them that image matters more than impact; success is better than significance and ease is preferable to excellence. Mark wants to help you sell your students on the truth that the best way to live a successful life is to be focused on what matters most.

Using a full range of emotions, Mark takes your students on a rollercoaster ride in this friendly, but in-your-face presentation, that will challenge your students to raise their game and live a life of service and significance.

Key Take-Aways:

  • How to make a positive difference in their lives, school and community
  • To eliminate excuses and entitlement
  • How to take responsibility for their attitudes and their actions
  • Why their mindset and motives matter

Duration: 50-65mins  Suitable for: Grades 7-12 & University/College audiences

Sponsor Me:

Students have great ideas! Unfortunately, they often aren’t able to execute on their vision because they lack the resources. Through his professional and volunteer work, Mark has helped raise over $150,000 in sponsorship money for various events and initiatives. In this idea session, Mark will help your student council and anyone other interested audiences, generate an effective strategy to find sponsors to fund their project.

Mark has been able to find sponsors to provide: money to massage therapy; and oranges to office spaces.

If you book this program along with your assembly, Mark may even help you generate a plan to find a sponsor to cover the cost of bringing him in to work with your students!

Key Takeaways:

  • Discover where to find potential sponsors and how to approach them
  • Learn how to discover win-win relationships with sponsors to make them want to come on board
  • The do’s and don’ts for effectively asking for what you want

Duration: 50-65mins  Suitable for: Grades 9-12 & University/College audiences


  • "It is rare to find a speaker who is able to both connect with teens AND provide a meaningful message that can immediately help them in their lives. Mark is one of those speakers. If you have the opportunity to bring him to your school, do it. We booked Mark for three virtual programs for our students and parents during the pandemic. I was impressed with how he effortlessly mixed humour with his remarkable experience, to make genuine connections with the audience even through a screen. Using various engagement strategies from hand raising to Q & A, he kept students engaged throughout. Mark’s program was exactly what we needed. The resilience strategies he teaches give students the tools to be better cope with the multitude of challenges they face, and the unforgettable story he shares inspires us to take action. After hearing Mark, students realize their capacity to thrive despite their circumstances and are empowered to face whatever life throws at them."
  • "Recently our students had the privilege of hearing speaker Mark Black. Mark was chosen by our Students’ Council after they heard him speak at the Ontario Student Leadership Conference in Niagara Falls. Right from the start of Mark’s presentation, students were engaged and remained engaged throughout the entire hour. Mark did a great job of combining humour and anecdotes relevant to our teenage students to hook them up, and to prepare them to hear his practical and powerful message of leading a life that is positive and purposeful. As a Guidance Counsellor and Students’ Council Advisor, I would highly recommend Mark for any speaking engagement. Using his own personal life experience, Mark is able to offer students practical ways to feel more optimistic, reduce anxiety and worry, and start a change process to reach their goals."Adam Rowden, Student Council Advisor, Wellington Heights Secondary School
  • "The saying ‘speak from your heart’ certainly suits Mark Black’s presentation! His honest, down to earth conversation with our students made a huge impact! We tied his presentation to our school Career Fair and his words hit home. It is rare to see a standing ovation in a high school, but there was no question: he deserved it!"Sheila Chad, Principal, E.D. Feehan Catholic High School
  • "It is not easy to gain the attention of middle schoolers. He engaged our 7-12 audience with skill. His content was everything that we try to deliver in our grade 9-12 Healthy and Active Living curriculum. It's inspiring to hear a "stranger" make these connections with the students: resilience, consent, respect and the Golden Rule, etc. We look forward to linking his talk back to our themes in the curriculum in the coming months."D. Kealey, Principal, St. Peter High School, Orleans, ON

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