Adding Persistence, Subtracting Fear: The Ed Sheeran Equation for Success

Ed Sheeran, sitting on top of a point high above a crowd, watching and soaking in the atmosphere before going onstage to perfrom
Embrace failure and persist against hurdles. That's the Ed Sheeran Equation for success. Through his candid interview with Howard Stern and his Disney Plus docu-series, 'Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All', Sheeran tells a story that prompts us to redefine our understanding of success. It's about viewing failure as an opportunity for growth, persisting despite obstacles, and redefining the journey, not just the destination.

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In our car we’re lucky. You may have the same, but we travel with little DJ’s in the back seats. Whether it’s a 5 minute trip or a gruelling 2 hours +, you can rest assured there will be an interesting setlist featuring a number of songs we’ve heard, and then heard again. And again. And, you probably get the picture.

Our daughter’s current obsession is the music of Ed Sheeran, it’s not surprising that his catchy, melodic tunes begin in the car and then echo around our home throughout the day in our heads. It sounds like I’m complaining, but actually, I have to admit it’s kinda nice. It’s the type of soundtrack that keeps you grounded in a world that often seems to spin too fast; do you know what I mean by that? I’m not sure I truly do, but it gives me a sense of comfort. What caught my attention though, beyond the music, is the compelling narrative of Sheeran’s journey, his creative process, and his views on success and failure.

A Glimpse into the Past

As a dedicated observer of creative evolution, I was fortunate to experience Ed Sheeran’s ascendancy to stardom. Back in 2011, while wandering around Reading Festival, I happened to stumble upon (and then proceed to write about it in an article YEARS later) Ed Sheeran’s surprise setlist on the ‘BBC Introducing’ stage. 

Play Video about Ed Sheeran - BBC Introducing stage at Reading Festival 2011

What I saw was not the Ed Sheeran we know today. Instead, there was a young artist, with raw potential, and pulling in an enormous crowd that obviously knew a lot more about him than I did! Little did we know that this underdog would eventually become one of the biggest stars on the planet – and 4 years prior, he couldn’t even sing at all.

Embracing Failure: A Lesson from Ed Sheeran

Fast forward to the present, I happened to come across Ed Sheeran in a candid interview with Howard Stern, who shone a spotlight on his creative process. 

Play Video

His message was simple yet profound – “You learn nothing from success, nothing. You learn everything from the failures.” He backed this statement by showcasing an early song he recorded as a teenager, which not only paled in comparison to his current works but also made me ponder what could have been for me if Ed Sheeran was that bad… In all seriousness though, what you see in this video is not an admission of incompetence, rather an unabashed celebration of his evolution as an artist.

This viewpoint is remarkably powerful, especially in a world that stigmatises failure. We often hide our missteps, brush them under the carpet, and display only our victories. But Sheeran’s narrative begs to differ. He prompts us to recognise our stumbles, not as fatal mistakes, but as milestones marking our journey towards mastery. “If you’re not prepared to be wrong…

The Power of Persistence

Sheeran’s approach towards failure cannot be detached from his belief in persistence. In fact, it is persistence that allows him to harvest valuable lessons from his failures. His journey was not a smooth ride; it was fraught with hurdles and disappointments. But with each setback, he returned with a stronger resolve to evolve and improve.

The transformation from the young boy singing on the ‘BBC Introducing’ stage to the global music icon didn’t happen overnight. It was a product of countless hours of practice, the willingness to face criticism, and the belief in his ability to do better. His Disney Plus docu-series, ‘Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All’, beautifully captures this journey of unyielding determination and growth – it’s a huge recommend from Kate and I. Also, with your albums being ‘+’, ‘x’, ‘÷’, ‘=’ and ‘-‘, what a genius title for a docu-series: ‘The Sum of It All’’. It’s things like that that make me think this was all planned out from the beginning and they’re just mocking us.

Play Video

Redefining Success

In our pursuit of success, it’s easy to get lost in the endless race for more – more likes, more followers, more money. But the question is – are these superficial indicators truly representative of success?

Sheeran’s story prompts us to redefine our understanding of success. His viewpoint aligns with our ethos at The Creative Revolution, where we see success not as a destination but as a journey. A journey that isn’t necessarily linear, but a winding path decorated with both triumphs and trials. By accepting this perspective, we can eliminate the fear of failure and view it instead as a sign of progress, a symbol of our efforts to push beyond our comfort zones.

The Ed Sheeran Equation

So, how can we apply these insights to our own creative pursuits? It boils down to a simple yet potent equation – adding persistence and subtracting fear. It encourages us to push forward despite obstacles, to embrace the process rather than fixate on the outcome, and to view failure not as a deterrent but as an opportunity for growth.

As an observer and partaker in the creative process, it has been inspiring to watch Sheeran’s evolution. However, the most profound impact lies not in his music, but in his approach towards creativity. It serves as a reminder that we too can transform our raw potential into something extraordinary if we embrace failure, persist despite hurdles, and redefine our definition of success.

The Creative Revolution stands on the philosophy that every individual is capable of sparking their unique creativity. And narratives like Sheeran’s fuel this belief, empowering us to face our fears, embrace our failures, and embark on our own creative revolution. With this renewed perspective, we can truly savour the journey of creativity, appreciate the beauty in our progress, and transform our so-called ‘mistakes’ into our own masterpieces.

In the end, like Ed Sheeran, we might find that the constant thread weaving through our own creative journey is not the need for validation or applause, but the insatiable desire to create, to evolve, and to make our unique mark on the world.


1. Ed Sheeran’s journey truly emphasises the power of persistence. Can you share a personal experience when embracing failure led to unexpected growth in your creative journey?

2. Ed’s “No plan-B” approach certainly pushes persistency. How do you react to failure? Does it motivate you to try harder or do you tend to shift to your plan B?

3. What does success mean to you? Is it about reaching a specific goal or does it have more to do with the journey and the lessons learnt along the way?


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