Meet Sean Broussard. US Army veteran and former Combatives Instructor. He’s trained hundreds of Army soldiers and military personnel in hand-to-hand combat and weapons proficiency. He’s also a three-decade student of the martial arts — starting when he was only three years old. Today he teaches Mixed Martial Arts to students and fighters, both for conditioning and for sport combat.
Yes, Sean Broussard is a genuine tough guy. But not the way you think. What makes Sean so tough, so ready to handle any situation life throws him, is not his combat skill. Not directly, anyway.
After 30 years of immersion in various martial-arts systems — American Kickboxing, Kung Fu/Wushu, Muay Thai, Boxing, Karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the Modern Army Combatives Program, and MMA — Sean has developed a philosophy of life that’s given him a level of inner peace, confidence, humility, and power that most of us never attain in everyday civilian life.
1. Be Humble and Willing to Learn
By the time he was a teenager, Sean was already a highly skilled American Kickboxer for his age. He was such a strong practitioner of the art, in fact, that the other students in Sean’s gym were hesitant to spar with him. Even his instructor was careful to put Sean into the ring with only the most advanced students.
He could have done what most people would do in this situation — enjoy his dominance, continue focusing exclusively on his American Kickboxing training, and stay on top of that discipline.
“But I knew there were more martial arts to learn,” Sean says. “And as long as there were other formidable fighting systems out there that I didn’t know, my combat knowledge would be dangerously incomplete. So I started studying Muay Thai.”
That decision, starting over as a beginner in a new discipline, took courage. But the way Sean decided to start learning this new Thai Boxing style took even more guts.
“I jumped into the ring with an experienced Muay Thai fighter — and I got my ass kicked. That eventually became my strategy. I’d find a combat art I wanted to learn and test my skills against an experienced practitioner of that system. It was usually a painful lesson — both to my body and to my dignity.”
Sean allowed himself to step out of a coveted identity, one he had worked hard to earn — a well-respected American Kickboxer — and step into the far less fun role of a beginner Muay Thai student.
And because he was willing to do that, Sean kept learning, kept exploring new styles, kept improving.
To this day, Sean’s motto is: “I’m always a white belt” (referring to the belt issued to a complete newbie in a martial art).
Sean’s lesson: Approach every situation with humility and an open mind. Always be willing to learn. The second you decide you have nothing left to learn, you stop improving.
2. Don’t Let Anything Control You
Sean has a flip phone, one that looks like it comes from the late 1990s. And he prefers it that way.
Sean is still a young man, tech-savvy, on social media quite often — usually promoting his young MMA fighters or sharing knowledge with a private network of martial-arts experts around the world. Why the hell wouldn’t a guy like that want an iPhone?
“My philosophy is that you can’t ever let anything control you,” Sean explains. “And I realized that my smartphone was in control. I was constantly checking it for email, texts, Facebook updates — to the point that it was distracting me from my training, from my students’ training, and from being fully present in any given moment. So I dumped it in favor of an old-fashioned flip phone.
“Now I’m in control of my focus for far more of the day than I was before — and far more than I think most people are who have those damn world-in-your-pocket smartphones by their sides 24 hours a day.”
The beauty of Sean’s philosophy — “never let anything control you” — is that you can apply it to anything.
“Worrying about what other people think of you is another example,” says Sean. “People waste a lot of energy and generate plenty of anxiety on this. Think of how pointless it is. Stressing out about something that might or might not be in other people’s brains? For what purpose?”
Sean notes that you can’t control what anyone else thinks about you, and that you can’t even truly know what they think of you anyway.
“Letting all of that stress and frustration flood your system, worrying about what someone else might think of you, is like turning yourself into your own worst opponent,” says Sean. “And I mean ‘worst,’ because with any external opponent, the confrontation or fight inevitably ends. But with yourself as an opponent, with all of that negativity directed at you and living inside your own head, you can be forcing yourself to fight this imaginary battle nonstop. How could that possibly benefit you?”
Sean’s lesson: If you’re letting yourself be controlled by anything — negative thinking, smoking, an email addiction — you need to conquer that force. You need to be in control of your mind and your life at all times. It’s the only way you can truly be ready for anything.
3. Own Your Mistakes — Every Damn One
“If I’ve trained you for a fight and you fail to perform at your best, that’s my failure — not yours,” Sean once told me in a training session. “It means either that I overestimated how well I trained you, because you weren’t ready for the match, or that I failed to properly condition you to perform at your best.”
Sean doesn’t look for others to blame. He owns every one of his mistakes and weaknesses.
“The only way to learn from any experience is to face the experience as it happened — head-on, without any excuses,” Sean explains. “It’s also the only way to move forward after a mistake.”
One reason many of us have trouble improving on our weaknesses is that we have such difficulty honestly assessing ourselves. Ever notice how often your friends’ stories feature them as the hero? Or how often when they describe confrontations at work the other person is always the unreasonable moron?
As Sean explains, there’s a relatively simple (although admittedly not easy) way to overcome this.
“Shine a bright light on your weaknesses, failures, screw-ups,” he says. “Doesn’t matter how difficult it might be to face the fact that you were equally responsible for a huge problem at your company or in your marriage. That difficulty is far outweighed by the lessons you can learn, and by the progress you can make in repairing the damage. When you’re dishonest with yourself — even a little — about what actually happened or where you’re deficient, you can never truly see the lesson, or benefit from it.”
Sean’s lesson: Stare straight at your mistakes and weaknesses. Give them an honest, long look. It’s the only way to learn from them and do better next time.
Now that’s living like a warrior.