Skip to Content

Ed Sheeran: “Never have a Plan B”​

01 April 2019

On Wednesday last week, I was blessed to be able to spend 2hrs in a small room with Ed Sheeran and a relative handful of others. Ed was giving an exclusive workshop to some lucky ones, sharing his journey, anecdotes, a wealth of advice and direction to many budding superstars in the room (and me).

If honest, I was there as a properly star struck amateur guitarist who destroys many of Ed’s songs around the campfire. But I also wondered if I’d get any useful insights applicable to my corporate speaking business.

Could there be any similarities between the business I am strategically growing and this mega super star’s journey to fame and insane success?

While I’m certainly not looking for fame, as a speaker I do need to stand out, I do need to be noticed in order to be considered for the next event and there is a ton of clutter to cut through in order to achieve this. It is hard, make no mistake.

The more he spoke, the more I was able to draw parallels. I found myself forgetting about the star struck part and hanging on every word of this super down to earth, humble pop star. And I was not alone.

The first thing that struck me was simple. We only ‘met’ Ed as a public when he was already a massive success. That’s all we see and it’s easy to paint him with the “how lucky is he” brush. But listening to Ed encouraging and advising some of `SA’s top muso’s in the room, one quickly realises the years and years and years of hard work, of touring, of failing, of rejection, of ridicule, the ups and the downs, the hand to mouth living, before finally getting noticed in one small segment of the world and slowly nurturing this to see it gain momentum. Star or not, it was a slog!

Nothing worthwhile comes easy, even for a mega star. Do the work!

“Forget the traditional”! This was the other revelation which I took to heart. Ed spoke at length at how he tried for so many years to get a record label to recognise him and take him on. “Cause that’s how it’s done isn’t it?”. But he never got this right and most would stop there, fatigued and broken by the continued rejection. After years of his own rejection he recognised the new technologies out there such as Spotify and iTunes to get himself recognised globally.

“Don’t worry about record labels, you can self publish these days anyway and most labels don’t know what to do with you once signed, so you lose momentum. Make your own magic – back yourself first” – said Ed. This is so applicable to me!

Getting noticed out there is very hard. But if you believe in yourself, in your product and in my case, a strong belief in the power of my messages, one needs to be brave, look for non-traditional ‘stages’ and out of the ordinary, new ways to show the world what you’ve got.

I need to stand on stages where I am not expected to be seen. Ed went out of his way to find, for eg, hiphop audiences and other environments which were miles away from his genre of music. When he started playing, of course some would be most surprised and possibly unhappy with the style he brought to them. But one thing he knew was that he would get noticed! And in such a competitive environment, that’s the best result. No difference for me.

And the last one to point out briefly, was the realisation that Ed came to, that because he had made in the UK, things would naturally snowball from there. They didn’t. He still had years ahead of him of hard touring and gigging in the USA before finally he gained any traction. I’ve had great success (on a much lower level obviously) in some sectors of industry where I am well recognised and a respected speaker in demand. However, this does not naturally overflow to other areas or industries. My work there, likes Ed’s once was in new countries and cultures, is not done! You can never take your foot off the gas. And that still applies completely to himself even now!

Never have a Plan B” – a piece of advice that I think took the whole room by surprise.

Ed suggests that a Plan B is little other than an escape clause for when the going gets tough on Plan A. I didn’t see this coming, but it spoke directly to my extreme swimming challenges, my elevated goals for my business as well as to part of my messaging and previous blog posts (Fog in Our Eyes). How our minds create and cling to excuses to make us feel better and less responsible for failure. Keep that door closed! Firmly.

And a bonus bit of unexpected advice. The one someone like me finds most challenging: – “stay off screens, minimise social media voyeurism and messaging – they suck creativity from your brain are a constant interruption that we have all allowed into our lives. Switch them off and focus!”

Ed told us that he doesn’t even own a smart phone – he has one of those old flip phones for emergencies.

But I think this might be a reach too far for me – maybe one day if stardom ever struck and I had an entourage around me 24/7, I’d put the old iPhone to rest.

I walked in as a star struck fan hoping for a selfie. I walked out with new ideas for my speaking business, a new level of understanding for what even the top of the top have had to go through to reach this point, hundreds of useful anecdotes and a wonderful, deep respect for the person and super star that is Ed Sheeran.

Archive

Instagram

Follow Ryan on Instagram for more pictures and videos.

  • Joined the Little Optimist Global Challenge on a gloriously beautiful Cape Town evening. ‘Sailed’ an ‘Optimist’ in a ‘Speedo’ in a ‘Pool’ with a ‘Cocktail’  Another world first? 🤷🏼‍♂️. Amazing initiative by @gregbertish and team and wonderful hospitality by Radisson Blu. Thank you Maryke Musson for the ride @littleoptimist @cityofcapetown @southafrica @maryke.musson @radissonblucapetown @liezelonline @deonbinglive @sos_childrens_villages @tanyanefdt @newsladyamy @gillstrawberrylive @vos_jamesJoined the Little Optimist Global Challenge on a gloriously beautiful Cape Town evening. ‘Sailed’ an ‘Optimist’ in a ‘Speedo’ in a ‘Pool’ with a ‘Cocktail’ Another world first? 🤷🏼‍♂️. Amazing initiative by @gregbertish and team and wonderful hospitality by Radisson Blu. Thank you Maryke Musson for the ride @littleoptimist @cityofcapetown @southafrica @maryke.musson @radissonblucapetown @liezelonline @deonbinglive @sos_childrens_villages @tanyanefdt @newsladyamy @gillstrawberrylive @vos_james
  • “When we first saw the little red boat anchored off the coast of Puerto Williams, the Southern-most town in the world, I distinctly remember us all bursting into spontaneous laughter. Not because there was anything remotely funny about it.”Read about the challenge that earned me in of these! Link in bio  #guinnessworldrecords #guinnessworldrecord #pushpastimpossible“When we first saw the little red boat anchored off the coast of Puerto Williams, the Southern-most town in the world, I distinctly remember us all bursting into spontaneous laughter. Not because there was anything remotely funny about it.”Read about the challenge that earned me in of these! Link in bio #guinnessworldrecords #guinnessworldrecord #pushpastimpossible
  • Sometimes you just gotta do the laps. No shortcuts. No way to cheat. No one to do it for you. 280 exhaustive times up and down, staring at that line. Only the mental game works. How you visualise the task . How you break it up in your head. Smaller, bite size goals within. Then suddenly it’s easy. And you can do it again tomorrow.Sometimes you just gotta do the laps. No shortcuts. No way to cheat. No one to do it for you. 280 exhaustive times up and down, staring at that line. Only the mental game works. How you visualise the task . How you break it up in your head. Smaller, bite size goals within. Then suddenly it’s easy. And you can do it again tomorrow.
  • The pure joy and excitement on this little chap’s face when we gave him and his friends a short ride down the canal was palatable. A little goes a long way when you have even less.The pure joy and excitement on this little chap’s face when we gave him and his friends a short ride down the canal was palatable. A little goes a long way when you have even less.
  • @khayelitshacanoeclub leading the crew today on the #PeninsulaPaddle. Beautiful morning on the water, sadly plenty of plastic pollution along the way. This event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens. #strawssuck #singleuseplastic ️@khayelitshacanoeclub leading the crew today on the #PeninsulaPaddle. Beautiful morning on the water, sadly plenty of plastic pollution along the way. This event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens. #strawssuck #singleuseplastic ️
  • A valuable reminder to consistently evaluate your choices when it comes to single-use plastic waste. #StrawsSuck #SingleUsePlasticUCT’s Future Water Institute will lead the 11th annual Peninsula Paddle on World Rivers Day, 27 September 2020, in partnership with Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET), Friends of the Liesbeek, Khayelitsha Canoe Club, Zandvlei Trust and the City of Cape Town (represented by the Zandvlei Nature Reserve).The event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens.A valuable reminder to consistently evaluate your choices when it comes to single-use plastic waste. #StrawsSuck #SingleUsePlasticUCT’s Future Water Institute will lead the 11th annual Peninsula Paddle on World Rivers Day, 27 September 2020, in partnership with Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET), Friends of the Liesbeek, Khayelitsha Canoe Club, Zandvlei Trust and the City of Cape Town (represented by the Zandvlei Nature Reserve).The event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens.
  • @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject" > @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject" />Can you watch The Octopus Teacher and still not want to do all you can to help protect our ocean and it's incredible, mysterious, peaceful tenants?This Documentary really touched me…I can't compare to Craig Foster, but I’ve been so blessed to swim with so many beautiful Ocean creatures – from mammoth whales and smaller ones too, countless playful dolphins, plenty cheeky seals, weird anti-social sunfish, penguins and yes, sharks too.I have even had yellowtail fish follow me for kilometres when I was swimming between continents, Europe to Africa’s Gibraltar Straits. They would inquisitively look directly into my goggles with their big round, penetrating eyes. When you share each other’s space in this way, something creeps into your core, into your soul and you’ll intuitively know you’ve been tasked by the creatures of the sea to help them. Follow -> @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject
  • Laying down audio books today at @blackhole_studios with @chris_tait_saLaying down audio books today at @blackhole_studios with @chris_tait_sa
  • Another epic swim camp run by @bigbayevents in Langebaan 🤟🏻Another epic swim camp run by @bigbayevents in Langebaan 🤟🏻
  • When it comes to the prism of possibilities, I’ve learnt that the real limit or “IMPOSSIBLE” is definitely not where your mind tells you it is. There is always significant margin on the other side of this ‘safe’ limit which is where the magic starts to happen. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to help audiences to Push Past Impossible – not anyone else’s impossible, but rather their own.The space or MARGIN between those two lines is where you start to get a concept of how much more you are capable of. It’s not a comfortable space, it’s the definition of being outside your comfort zone – but that’s where you’re going to learn something.I think people know what their impossibles are, deep down… The first step is to identify those moments where there’s a choice to make: you can follow this path because you know you can deliver a nice steady performance, learn nothing and achieve a reasonable goal. But at the same time there’s another potential path: a way to do something differently, or better. Why didn’t you choose that? Because it was a risk, and you thought you could fail. Once you start challenging things on a small level, you can keep growing.When it comes to the prism of possibilities, I’ve learnt that the real limit or “IMPOSSIBLE” is definitely not where your mind tells you it is. There is always significant margin on the other side of this ‘safe’ limit which is where the magic starts to happen. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to help audiences to Push Past Impossible – not anyone else’s impossible, but rather their own.The space or MARGIN between those two lines is where you start to get a concept of how much more you are capable of. It’s not a comfortable space, it’s the definition of being outside your comfort zone – but that’s where you’re going to learn something.I think people know what their impossibles are, deep down… The first step is to identify those moments where there’s a choice to make: you can follow this path because you know you can deliver a nice steady performance, learn nothing and achieve a reasonable goal. But at the same time there’s another potential path: a way to do something differently, or better. Why didn’t you choose that? Because it was a risk, and you thought you could fail. Once you start challenging things on a small level, you can keep growing.