Here's how the story starts:
My Stuttering Life is hosted by Pedro Pena III, a USAF Gulf War Veteran and entrepreneur. On each episode, he talks about his life as a person who stutters.
The about page for My Stuttering Life says this:
Just know that you are not alone in your journey.
This is one of the most powerful things about podcasting – letting people know they're not alone. And when you think about podcasting in this way, it's often the thing that could easily keep you from podcasting at all that becomes your greatest asset for being able to successfully connect with people.
If you're thinking about podcasting, but worried about the sound of your voice, your ability to deliver a message, or judgement from others, you're not alone. It's scary to release something to the world.
But there are huge benefits when you do... Listeners don't want "perfect," they want something that's real.
I talked to Pedro about his journey to create My Stuttering Life and share his experience as a podcaster who stutters:
How do you describe your condition?
Technically, it's a fluency disorder and stuttering is the sub-category.
My type of stutter was by a traumatic event when I was five-years-old. I was attacked by a German Shepherd while walking home from school. I lived near the school and my house was at the end of a cul-de-sac.
The dog was in the front yard, unchained, and when I was walking home, I turned to look at the dog and he began to chase after me. I started running and the dog jumped on top of me knocking me down on the concrete sidewalk. He was biting the back of my leg as I yelled for help and that’s all that I can remember.
Before that dog attack, I had normal speech like everyone else. After the dog attack, my speech deteriorated and I had 0% fluency due to the shock/trauma from it (sidebar: people have always asked me if I'm afraid of dogs and I always answer "no").
My mother stuttered as a child but outgrew it and genetically stuttering can be passed down from the mother's side of the family. When I think back on it, was I supposed to stutter later as a child or did this dog attack speed up the process? I went through speech therapy during my school years and also while I was in the military.
I tried hypnosis. I saw significant improvement though short-lived with hypnosis due to PCS orders (permanent change of stations), I could not keep up with that therapy going from base to base. However, I do plan on continuing it because I saw significant improvement with my fluency. All those years of speech therapy helped me reach 80 to 85% fluency by learning techniques to control the symptoms.
There is no magic pill cure for stuttering despite the snake oil salesman that state otherwise in social media. If that was the case, I would have tried it a long time ago. However, I did try voodoo in my younger days because I thought, what if. Surprisingly it didn't cure my stutter and that was money down the drain.
What's the biggest misconception about stuttering?
The biggest misconception is that people who stutter are less intelligent or capable. Growing up, the term that I heard most often when describing my speech impediment was that I had a form of mental retardation. Just because I was unable to speak and when I did it was a series of clicks, grunts, and heavy breathing, they labeled me with that diagnosis.
I spent the majority of my school years isolated because no one wanted to hang out with the kid who stuttered, hissed, and spit when he spoke. After high school, I was determined to prove everyone wrong and have a successful life. I joined the military (USAF & served during the Persian Gulf War) and after receiving an honorable discharge, I attended college and obtained my undergraduate and graduate degrees.
My inspiration was the time that I spent while in network marketing. For over two years, I attended workshops, trainings, and seminars learning about myself and reading motivational books written by Les Brown, Tony Robbins, Mel Robbins, Jim Rohn, John Maxwell, Zig Ziglar, Lewis Howes, and Napoleon Hill. What I learned is that when you surround yourself with positive people, you can do anything.
During many of these trainings, I was asked if I would get up on stage and introduce the speakers. My team cheered me on as I was walking towards the stage. From that point on I knew that I could do anything that I set my mind to and that my stutter was not going to control my life.
I first started with a YouTube Channel with the name “My Stuttering Life” and I was going to share my life experiences with other people who stutter, so that they knew that they were not alone. Growing up I thought I was the only one who stuttered, so I felt very alone in the world. With my YouTube Channel, I would discuss my challenges and my successes as I navigated through life with a stutter. To my amazement, I received positive feedback from all over the globe, encouraging me to continue with my videos.
When I learned of podcasting from a friend, I decided to use it also as a medium because there are some people who prefer to listen to content instead of viewing it. By creating a podcast, I could also have guests (i.e., people who stutter, speech language pathologists, parents of children who stutter, etc.) and share their experiences.
What did you worry about before starting your podcast and how have you overcome these worries (or worked around them)?
My major concern for starting a podcast was how listeners would react to my blocks, my clicks, and especially my heavy breathing while trying to speak into the microphone. Ironically, those are the types of sounds you “edit” out of your podcast.
After agonizing over this for a few months, I decided to create a plan of action which included joining online community groups specifically for people who stutter. I joined many stuttering groups and I learned what their daily struggles are. I created friendships within these online communities and my audience began to grow.
Since I know who my audience is, I speak directly to them with all the clicks, blocks, and heavy breathing, because it’s a part of their lives as well. My plan is to interview as many PWS, speech language pathologists, and parents of children who stutter, because they all have stories to share and if I can share them with other PWS, then I feel like I’m making a difference in the world.
What's been the biggest surprise since starting your podcast?
The feedback has been overwhelming positive. The biggest surprise since starting my podcast has been learning about the global discrimination against people who stutter.
Previously, I believed that there were anti-discrimination laws all over the globe, protecting individuals with speech impediments. That's not the case. I have received feedback from people who stutter who live in other countries that they are discriminated against and labeled as “less than.”
On a positive note, I've helped PWS (people who stutter) through my podcast handle job interviews with great success. I'm honored to have this platform to help other people who stutter know that they are not alone and that they can be successful in life.