Young Adult Spotlight: Mark Sherwood

Know what you want and go get it. Take it step by step. Fall down 8 times, stand up 9 times.

These are all sayings that I’ve heard from a young age and made a part of who I am. They are just as much a part of me as my hearing loss. I have a bilateral severe-profound hearing loss in both of my ears and I wear two behind-the-ear aids.

Audiologists and other hearing and speech professionals are always blown away when they see my chart and wonder how I can speak and hear so well for my loss. I owe my parents a mountain of gratitude for getting me aids and speech therapy when I was young.

Growing up, I always knew I was different. I was often the one kid in class who would say “What?” that one extra time (or as I grew older and more polite, “Pardon me?”) or I was the one who would start laughing half a second too late or sometimes give those out of the blue responses that only folks with hearing loss can relate to.

Yet despite being different, I never decided to let that hold me back. I could have chosen to hide behind my blanket of “deafness” or let that define me. While my hearing loss is a large part of who I am, it does not define who I am.

Know what you want and go get it. Take it step by step. Fall down 8 times, stand up 9 times.

Fast forward to today and I’m a Health Empowerment Coach who coaches clients over Skype, Zoom or the phone. I play on the National Deaf Soccer team and I fought forest fires for 9 years. I have traveled literally around the world (solo for a large portion of it) and I have no plans to slow down. From the moment I heard about fighting forest fires, I knew it was a summer job that I wanted to have. But almost immediately, my inner critic (the only voice I can hear loud and clear) came into my head and told me “Whoa, hold on Mark. You can barely hear people across the room, how the heck are you going to hear people across a burning pit or over the radio or in a helicopter?”

I had to admit that my inner critic had a point. How the heck was I going to do all that? But the thing is, your inner critic serves to keep you safe and comfortable. Not to help you grow and succeed in life. After all, we grow the most when we are outside of our comfort zone.

I listened to and acknowledged my inner critic and then politely told it to “take a hike”. Just like my hearing loss, my inner critic is a part of who I am, but it doesn’t define who I am.

Over the years of fighting fires, I found that the only sure-fire way to find ways around my hearing loss was to build relationships. My crew boss and crew mates always knew that I was hard of hearing and would do their best to remember that at all times. I could work just as hard as them, I just maybe needed an extra call on the radio or instructions repeated a few times to make it work.

Was it easy? No, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Was it a smooth process? No. I had to experiment and find many different approaches to figure out what ultimately worked for me on the fire-line.

The point is this. I knew what I wanted and went for it. I took it step by step. I fell down way more than 8 times and I stood up way more than 9 times.

I challenge you to listen to your inner critic next time you hear him/her/it pop up. Acknowledge it and thank it for trying to keep you safe, but then tell it to take a hike. You’re capable of so much more than you believe, you just need to go out there and do it.


Mark Sherwood is a Health Empowerment Coach, former Forest Firefighter and goalkeeper for the Canadian National Deaf Soccer team. He helps clients achieve a healthy lifestyle and a body that they love regardless of whether that body fits into society’s ideal standards or not. He loves to travel and explore the outdoors. For more information on Mark, check out his website here: