My name’s Joshua and I was born deaf with 100% hearing loss in both ears. I did not expect to have the life I am living today and I am grateful for the lessons I learned throughout my journey for the past 30 years. You may know that I started @ledbetter_inc, or a successful online entrepreneur that brings more than six figures annually through different businesses, getting featured through newspapers and online magazines, or husband of Julie.
Being deaf at first, I felt that I was robbed. I was unable to keep up with friends. I was unable to pick up a phone to hold a conversation with people. I couldn’t work with a group on project unless I had a sign language interpreter. I couldn’t hear or listen to music like many people did. I was at an unfair advantage. I didn’t really share how I got to where I am today without sharing a lot of dark secrets about my past. All you see on my social media platform, are just the tip of my iceberg aka highlight reels. It is time for you to look under the water, and see how I decided not to give up that it led to who I am today.
When my mom, Kelly moved to Germany it was to support my biological father, Joel with his career in the military. Although she had been married seven years, she had never become pregnant. Then in the fall of 1985, she became pregnant with me. As the pregnancy progressed, my mom had this feeling that she needed to learn sign language. At that time there was nothing to show that her pregnancy was anything but normal. So, she self-taught herself some basic signs and to sign happy birthday with the help of books.
In July of 1986, my father was transferred back to Colorado Springs to Fort Carson. I was born in October. As soon as I was delivered by the doctor, he told my mother she had a very healthy baby boy and that he had all his fingers and toes. My mother then said that they needed to check my ears because she knew I could not hear. Everyone laughed it off to her being exhausted. In 1986 they did not do newborn hearing screenings on babies to see if there was any hearing loss.
As time passed, it became more evident to my mother that I could not hear. I did not startle or wake up when she vacuumed, nor did I talk. Yes, I babbled, but not like a hearing child. When I turned one and went for my yearly checkup, my mother told the doctor that I could not hear. He said he did not believe that and to bring me back in six months. My mother immediately went home and called an ear, nose and throat physician to get my hearing tested.
I took the hearing test with the light up bears and I promptly passed that. I seemed to be aware of which bear would light up. She did not believe the test so the doctor ordered an ABR. She sat in a darkened booth while they hooked me up to electrodes to measure my hearing. Even though she knew I could not hear, it was still devastating to her when the technologist came in and said, “yes, you are right, he cannot hear.” And she left my mom there to deal with the news.
My grandmother was there and they both just stood there and said, “What do we do now?” My mom had no idea what was next. She called the doctor and he provided her with some names and she went to work to find out about hearing aids, classes, etc. She got me and her into an infant stimulation class at the deaf and blind school. It was great for her to be with other mothers who had deaf/hard of hearing children and I was only 13 months old. We really had a great support system with my grandma and my aunt. Mom and Aunt Tracy took sign language classes and mom went to class with me every week. She cried the first time I signed my first word which was “more.”
I didn’t like my hearing aids at all and it took me a long time to get used to them. As I moved along in the class, it was evident to others that I was pretty intelligent. My dad and mom met with a Deaf Education teacher at Jefferson Elementary who wanted me out of the deaf and blind school to be mainstreamed. Denise Davis Pedrie was a lifeline to my mother and such a lifelong teacher to me. My mom worked with me every day with auditory training, signing, and speech. She never gave up and knew that I was going to succeed at it all.
In terms of getting a cochlear implant, my mother never made that decision for me. She felt it was not her place to tell me to be hearing and as I grew, we talked often about it but I felt that I am who I am. My mother never wanted me to be someone that she thought I might want to be so she left the decision to me as I became older. Although I was close one time at the age of 17, close enough to make the surgical appointment, I decided that I could not be what the hearing world wanted me to be.
I did not recognize my deafness until I was about six years old when I began to experience my struggles with communication. I remember it very well because we used to communicate through gestures. Unfortunately, the use of gestures has continued to decline as hearing students grew older because they didn’t see the need to use gestures and/or sign language. The survival mechanism began to kick inside me, and I asked my speech therapist to teach me lip-reading more because I wanted to hang out and play sports with other students. Keep in mind, I had an amazing circle of friends who were deaf and hard of hearing, too so I didn’t feel completely left out.
When I was in elementary, middle, and high school… I was bullied and discriminated many times. To be specific with one of my first events, I remembered the first time I was called dumb and mute. I didn’t understand why I was being called that name. I came home to ask my parents about it. My mom taught me the first lesson that each child needed to hear: do not listen to others but yourself, you must believe in yourself to get where you want to be in life.
With my family behind me 100%, I was encouraged to work hard and learned not to give up. The life I experienced through school, motocross racing and life, in general, was like a roller coaster ride.
In May of 2011, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Sports and Exercise Science. When I was let go by my boss after completing my internship, I moved back home with my parents and began to look for my job. That summer, I applied to over 70 jobs. Every job opportunity I applied to, I never heard back from them. Every interview I attended, I didn’t get an equal opportunity to share my experience and/or expertise because the employers either didn’t provide an interpreter for me or that they didn’t know how to treat me.
That gave me a huge disadvantage against other job prospects which was extremely frustrating. After my 70th job interview, I remember driving home to my parents’ house with anger and asking myself questions (such as “Why am I wasting my time?”; “Why me?”, and “Why am I allowing others dictate what I can and cannot do?”). In that moment, a light bulb turned on inside my head, and began to wonder what it would take for me to create a company on my own? To create a movement to show the world that my disability has nothing to do with my ability to succeed?
That fall of 2012, in my parents’ basement, I began to research and learned how to start a company. I was scared but my drive to succeed was stronger than the fear I had. Shortly after, I derived Ledbetter from my last name and created the acronym: Live Every Day Better. For the last year, I have helped over 10,000 individuals reach goals through their body, mind, and soul in the most sustainable way possible!
Fast forward today, I own several online businesses doing what I love by teaching others to live every day better through body, mind, and soul with my hearing wife, Julie Ledbetter.
Believing in myself is the best gift that I had given to myself because it pulls me through the hard times: a decision that cost me my professional motocross racing career at age of 15, unable to find a dream job related to my field for more than two years, unable to secure a job interview because I couldn’t pick up a phone call, getting email rejections from multiple bosses because I was not qualified, went through multiple depressions and suicide attempts. I felt like I was torn apart in multiple directions and that I wasn’t meant to be here today. I felt that I couldn’t make it but each time I went through that, I remembered that I needed to stay still and believe in myself.
Now, looking back five years today… I have a beautiful wife, a furry kid (dog), amazing friendships, incredible families, great customers that I love, a house that we just purchased, a car to drive, money in our savings, and being able to help individuals grow and change their lives for the better. All of things that has happened to me today is because I believed in myself (including my faith in God). It doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not, I didn’t need my ears to thrive through the business world. I used technology to help get where I am today.
If you are in a hard spot right now, remember to believe in yourself and that you’ll get through it. Your journey is what brings you the lessons you need to learn before you’ll succeed at whatever you set for in your life. It goes the same for everyone else.
#thedeafmentor #ledbetter #believeinyourself
Lewis Howes features the Ledbetters: https://www.facebook.com/lewishowes/videos/1545040185551829/