Writing up our ONEOFTHE8 stories is a true honour to me. We push these biographical snippets out into the world with the aim of changing the lives and perspectives of people just like you,our readers, but believe that they have a profound impact on us too. So often I find these introductory paragraphs the most difficult part to write because summarising how remarkable each and every one of our guests is in a short curation of sentences is a virtually impossible task. Somehow though, I always seem to manage it - and I hope, do each one justice. Our next guest, however, rendered me almost incurably speechless. Almost.
Little over five minutes into our hour long conversation with Seth, he made a point of informing chief podcaster, Jake - and our listeners - that: “there’s nothing special about me - absolutely nothing - I’m just an ordinary guy who has sought extraordinary circumstances”. Now, if you’ve listened to Seth’s episode on the ONEOFTHE8 podcast already then you’ll know that this statement couldn’t be any further from fact. If you haven’t caught up on the podcast just yet, keep reading for a succinct summary on why Seth Jahn is precisely what he professes not to be - a very special human, far from fitting the identity profile of an ‘ordinary guy’.
“There’s nothing special about me - absolutely nothing - I’m just an ordinary guy who has sought extraordinary circumstances”
One of the key ONEOFTHE8 mantras is to have a positive influence on the media that people are consuming via the internet and their devices on a minutely basis. You can choose to either emerge yourself beneath the tidal wave of bad news and toxic content, or you can transform your digital realm into a vital source of positivity, empowerment and real, tangible inspiration. Seth Jahn is a perfect example of the latter and somebody Jake happened to recently stumbled upon via Instagram. Behind the 33.5k followers and esteemed blue tick, Jake would find, is a truly astonishing person whose story started in Florida, USA and a soccer scholarship at St. Andrews University.
During his time in education, one show of talent led to another and eventually Seth began playing professional soccer. One day, during time spent playing in South America, he walked out into a stadium of over 30,000 people all chanting, dancing and vibrating with the electric atmosphere of a large-scale sports game. Adrenaline coursed through Seth’s veins as he nodded his head in satisfaction that he’d ‘made it’ - a feeling rapidly replaced by a realisation that would go on to change the course of his life…
Seth tells us how he scanned the masses, contemplating the crowd in a way he never had a before. A way which made him suddenly feel like “a court jester paid to entertain people”, people who would later leave the stadium to go back to doing more meaningful things with their lives. No longer did Seth want to be this performer, living a life defined by a game and “a bag of air” - something which inspired Seth to write a paper on “what it takes to change the essence of a man”. His conclusion: “either an epiphany or a traumatic event”.
The former - an epiphany - had washed over Seth that day on the soccer field. The latter - a traumatic event - was later to follow but it’s fair to say that the essence of that man in the stadium has been changed for good. The epiphany catalysed Seth’s decision to attend and complete Ridge Votech Firefighter Academy but his altruism was still to go much, much deeper.
“There’s two types of people in this world, Jake - there’s doers and there are sayers”
Soccer wasn’t the only sport Seth had ties with, he was no stranger to the boxing ring either and through a boxing comrade, came to the realisation that his desire to be a part of the services could become a reality. After a friendly match and some ‘smack talk’ in jest, Seth was given the push by his friend to join the army. Later that week, he signed up, wasting no time in making the change he felt necessary in his life. “There’s two types of people in this world, Jake”, says Seth in his interview, “there’s doers and there are sayers”. It’s pretty clear to see already which one we’re dealing with as the conversation develops.
Seth has a strongly convicted belief in avoiding the path of least resistance if you want to succeed. “When you punch through the facade of failure, you’re going to open yourself up to this whole other plain of motivation and of performance and ultimately, results”, he tells us as he recounts his transition from professional soccer player to military serviceman. His career in the army would see Seth carry out three deployments, one in Iraq and two in Afghanistan - a career which was cut short in 2010 following an injury sustained during a support operation against the Taliban.
What’s perhaps most interesting about Seth’s course in the military is the human approach he applied to warfare. During his deployment, Seth was put in charge of building a rapport with the locals in order to fulfil what he calls “a more strategic mission”, which was about much more than just “taking out a bad guy”. An integral part of this relationship-building was communication, a demanding requirement which has consequentially endowed Seth with the ability to speak four other languages. What’s arguably even more remarkable than that though is the human connection Seth and his comrade managed to foster through the dialect of sport. More specifically, the universal language of soccer.
Seth and one of his team members decided to take a ball outside onto the helipad of their ranks one day, kicking it between the two of them. By the end of the day they had summoned a game of 19-a-side, mixing their comrades with the local Afghan army, something which later became a post-mission tradition. Not only did this tradition “transcend barriers” in a way they never had been before, it also saved Seth’s life. A member of the Afghan army who regularly played soccer with Seth and his comrades imparted intel on a pending ambush of their team, information which enabled them to prevent the attack, saving many lives including Seth’s.
“When you punch through the facade of failure, you’re going to open yourself up to this whole other plain of motivation and of performance and ultimately, results”
“I can ultimately say that soccer saved my life”, Seth tells us - an interesting turn of life events given his prior decision to leave behind the world of professional soccer in favour of serving his country in the army. During his time in the military, Seth enduring a whole plethora of blood-curdling injuries, many of which medical professionals said should have lead to him never being able to walk again if, indeed, he even survived. A double parachute malfunction, several brain injuries, a punctured lung and five spinal cord fractures are just a few of the catastrophic injuries we’re talking about here.
It wasn’t just a case of surviving the odds stacked against him though - when it comes to the recipe for Seth’s astounding endurance, there is a heavy measure of superhuman determination involved. He recalls a stint in a military rehabilitation clinic, after being told he might never walk again, where he dedicated several hours of every day, from the late evening to the early hours, training his body to function again. He would wait until the gym would empty out and then spend hours upon hours learning how to walk again. Not only that, he also went on to encourage a fellow patient - a double amputee marine - to attend the gym with him after noticing how he had “checked out”. Seth watched how the marine’s “physical body followed suit” as his mental health improved and pinpoints this as the perfect exemplar of never giving up or taking the path of least resistance.
“I had to be broken in every dynamic - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - in order to be receptive to the next path in my life”
“I had to be broken in every dynamic - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - in order to be receptive to the next path in my life” and this next path would lead Seth across the world, to a small hut between two mountains in Phuket, Thailand. Seth moved to Thailand to “decompress after eat, sleep and breathing warfare for the past decade”, where he fought professionally, donating the proceeds from his fights to an elephant sanctuary and tiger rescue centre. With nothing but his small but, a pet baby elephant, a motorcycle and a phone which he barely checked on a monthly basis, Seth followed the path of his life.
The next journey would see him move to Europe, living in Paris, Frankfurt and Geneva where once again, sport presented itself in Seth’s path. This time, in the form of an offer to play professionally as part of Team SOCOM (United States Special Operations Command). Seth went on to represent the team in the Warrior Games of 2013 as the Ultimate Champion, later scouted by the US National 7-a-side football team. Again, Seth made the team, going on to score the game-winner against Scotland “that put them into Rio”.
Sport shot Seth to social media fame but what he draws our attention to during our conversation is how curious it is that it took sporting recognition for Seth to be noticed by the public eye. Why not for his humanity or his involvement in law enforcement, the military, government service, the intelligence community and counter-poaching? What a strange, strange world it is we live in, we agreed.
“If I’m going to bitch about it, I better be willing to do something about it”
The counter-poaching is one of the most recent epochs of Seth’s colourful life so far. Following his decorated residency within the world of sport, he once again left on a more philanthropic mission, destination - Africa. His plight? To directly combat terrorism against the animal kingdom and the atrocities linked to poaching in Africa, which Seth recounts as being far worse than any atrocities he was witness to in Afghanistan.
For two years, Seth worked for a variety of anti-poaching units in Africa, undermanned, under-equipped and under-weaponed, waging a war against those who were killing animals for their commodities. Rhino horns are the hottest of these commodities but those poaching it are also linked to those behind operations funding terrorist organisations and human trafficking. It’s safe to assume that these are the types of people Seth refers to when he describes “the most evil and vile dregs of this planet” when contrasting human behaviour to the pure innocence of animals.
So, where does such a phenomenal human being find such awe-inspiring altruism and lionhearted bravery? Well, according to the man himself, in anybody who has the ability to display selflessness and the desire to contribute to the betterment of other people. Also in Jesus who, for him, is the perfect embodiment of these qualities.
Before we parted ways with Seth (hopefully not for too long) we just had to ask - what’s next for this “young, cocky punk ass kid”, who “didn’t come from much at all”, who has already learnt four languages, been a professional sportsman, climbed two of the world’s highest summits, represented his country on the battlefield and the soccer field, been to 98 countries, lived in nine of them and survived a series of typically fatal injuries? You might think it would be a long, relaxing vacation somewhere quiet and tropical but no… Next on Seth’s agenda is finishing his PhD, tackling Mount Everest, a solo sail around the world, a solo flight around the world, entering into the political realm, oh, and the small task of becoming an astronaut. Crazy as it might seem, we think it’s only a matter of time before we see footage of our guy Seth on the moon. Watch this space and in the meantime…
Catch up on Seth’s episode on the ONEOFTHE8 podcast to hear more about his truly humbling story so far. To stay up to date with where his next paths happen to take him, make sure to follow Seth on Instagram @sethjahn_ix.