Jason Burke of The New Primal On Becoming Free From The Fear Of Failure

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine
Published in
16 min readOct 30, 2022


Visualize success. We’ve heard a lot about visualizing success from many thought leaders, and it’s because it works. Give yourself a few minutes of mindfulness daily to visualize and think about how success looks and feels to you. This practice works when performed consistently. For years, I have spent time daily imagining my life 5–10 years down the road, and I can attest that the vast majority of the things I visualized having in my life continue to manifest as I combine them with hard work.

The Fear of Failure is one of the most common restraints that holds people back from pursuing great ideas. Imagine if we could become totally free from the fear of failure. Imagine what we could then manifest and create. In this interview series, we are talking to leaders who can share stories and insights from their experience about “Becoming Free From the Fear of Failure.” As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jason Burke.

Meet Jason Burke, the founder and CEO of The New Primal. In 2009 he swore off junk food, embraced a more active lifestyle and a healthy diet, and started a meat snacks company — in his very own kitchen to help provide protein-packed and on-the-go options for others. And with the introduction of better-for-you sauces, dressings, and seasonings, The New Primal aims to offer innovative ways to make healthy eating easy, convenient, and delicious. Today, they are distributed in over 5,000 stores nationwide!

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I appreciate the chance to share. I grew up in Tampa, Florida, in Section 8 housing. It’s an integral part of my story because as I was underperforming in school, my mom got a special assignment for me to attend a school in the most affluent part of the school district. Because of that, I lived a very polarizing childhood between my friends with wealthy parents and my friends who lived in my apartment complex. I believe this is where my entrepreneurial spirit was born — I wanted the things my rich friends had, and I began looking for creative ways to make money as early as 10–11 years old. I didn’t play sports or join social clubs in high school, but I started a lawn service where I learned the ropes of managing a small business. I took that business into my college experience but sold it and entered financial services. In 2008, I left that career for a software sales job in Charleston, South Carolina. Shortly after I moved, both of my parents were diagnosed with chronic illnesses directly related to unhealthy lifestyles and diet. Their diagnoses sparked a keen interest in food and its impact on our overall well-being. I discovered “Paleo” in 2009 as a dietary framework, which changed my life forever. While packing desk snacks for my software sales job, I began making homemade grass-fed beef jerky on my kitchen counter with an at-home dehydrator. People would steal the jerky from my desk drawer, so I finally started making people pay me for it. About six months later, I had six dehydrators in my kitchen, and my wife came home from a girl’s night out complaining that all her clothes smelled like a BBQ. At that moment, we realized we might be onto something, so I set up a website to sell jerky online and rented a small space to make the product and save my wife’s sanity. About 18 months later, I left my day job and went full-time in the meat snacks business. Today, we make over 30 products and distribute them to retailers like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Publix, and Kroger nationwide.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I think the most pivotal one so far came from a business check-in meeting in Boulder, Colorado, with our Rocky Mountain Region Whole Foods Market’s buyer. This was in 2016, and we were still selling jerky regionally to Whole Foods. We couldn’t get headquarters to give us a meeting…in four years. So, I flew to Boulder for a regional meeting. I didn’t know the Category Manager personally, but I had a little background on him and knew he was active at his CrossFit gym. So I noticed the CrossFit sticker on his laptop and used it to talk about something he was passionate about. I had experience cross-fitting, but was out of shape at this point — being a new dad, building a startup, and the constant travel had taken a toll.

He invited me to work out after the meeting, and I agreed. The thin air added an extra element of complexity, and I got my butt kicked, but I showed up. Shortly after, this buyer moved to Austin to take a role for Whole Foods HQ. His first category was condiments. We were working on a cooking sauce/marinade that was born out of our Beef Jerky recipe. I sent him a bottle to try, and shortly after that, I was sitting in a conference room in Austin, collaborating on a national launch of The New Primal’s Marinades. We were founded as a meat snacks brand, but our marinades launched nationally at Whole Foods before our meat snacks ever did. I attribute it to that workout and the relationship we built leading up to that moment. Over the next three years, we grew our assortment on their shelves from 3 to 33 products across three categories.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Conviction, Persistence, and Collaboration.

  1. Conviction — No matter if it’s an employee, vendor, supplier, customer, or investor, we need to speak from a place of conviction to enroll people in our vision. In the first few months of launching The New Primal, I cold-called almost every major U.S. grocer individually. I landed a meeting with Publix. Admittedly, I had no business being in that meeting yet, but I showed up with the conviction that I had a product that would serve the Publix consumer and would add value to their assortment. I could confidently articulate what we offered, why it was unique to the set, and how our team would execute launching the items. The category manager bought into the story I was telling because I shared it with confidence and sincerity. We earned 300 locations with two products and were off to the races.
  2. Persistence — Throughout my career, professional persistence has played a key role in our success. There is a clear difference between annoying someone who doesn’t want your follow-up and being professionally persistent when you are convinced that what you’re offering will add value. In the early days, I went back and forth with the REI buyer for months. Whenever he brought up an objection or a roadblock, I would offer a solution to overcome it, but never in a pushy way. I would end my rebuttal with, “should I follow up in a few months?” I was respectful and consistent. But not forceful or aggressive. We built a relationship through my persistence and ultimately earned the business when the time was right.
  3. Collaboration — We’ve made it a point to view every business relationship as a partnership. Partnerships require collaboration. I’m generally not a fan of purely transactional relationships. We’ve seen this play out in our relationships with a few key retailers where we work together to identify innovation opportunities. Instead of just pitching something new that we’ve come up with, we sit down in planning meetings and start with, “where do you think there are opportunities to better serve the consumer shopping in your store?” They are enrolled in the process from the beginning and have input into the entire iterative process. It has worked wonders.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the concept of becoming free from failure. Let’s zoom in a bit. From your experience, why exactly are people so afraid of failure? Why is failure so frightening to us?

Disclaimer: there is an official medical diagnosis called atychiphobia, which is the constant, overwhelming feeling of dread that accompanies undertaking projects or pursuing life goals. In more extreme cases, people need professional help, and that’s perfectly ok.

There are many potential reasons. These range from childhood experiences like bullying or experiencing a traumatic event. Or, perhaps we grew up with overly critical parents. Or many people fail on some level throughout their life, and the emotions of feeling embarrassed or upset have stuck around.

That said, in my conversations with others along the way, there are a few themes that seem to reoccur.

First is low self-esteem or insecurity. A lack of self-confidence can drown out an opportunity-based mindset and cripple us from acting. Insecurity about making mistakes has a paralyzing impact.

The second issue I see is where we attach specific outcomes directly to our self-worth. Instead of fearing the failure of a project or business, we internalize the failure and attach the outcome to our self-worth. We operate from a place where we become a failure if a project or business doesn’t work out. In his book “Failing Forward,” John Maxwell said, “The first important step in weathering failure is learning not to personalize it.”

The third primary driver is perfectionism which could also be rooted in childhood experiences. We may avoid taking action if we’re concerned with people-pleasing (an entire interview in itself).

What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?

We are limited by allowing the fear of failure to overwhelm us. The downsides include procrastination, regret, missing out on learning opportunities, and perhaps the worst — leaving the world without the chance to benefit from your great idea(s).

I should acknowledge that some levels of fear can be positive forces in our lives. A healthy level of fear might prevent us from moving too quickly, making careless mistakes, or neglecting to put the right contingencies in place.

In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the free of failure can help improve our lives?

John Maxwell describes it like this, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.” Freeing yourself from the fear of failure opens us up to massive learning opportunities. I am a lifelong student and constantly put good stuff in the tank. Because humans are biased towards adverse events, I override negative thoughts as often as possible by continually reading books, listening to podcasts, and trying to learn from others who live extraordinary lives. Planting seeds of opportunity into the subconscious by constantly filling my mind with new ideas is paramount.

We would love to hear your story about your experience dealing with failure. Would you be able to share a story about that with us?

The one that stands out most in my mind is a time when I had just begun a capital raise to help fund The New Primal’s growth, and my mom’s health quickly turned for the worst. I ended up in an ICU alongside her, trying to keep our business running and taking calls with venture capital firms.

It was a rough few months as her health declined rapidly.

The VC calls from the hospital waiting room felt like a fever dream. The questions I was answering felt so small compared to what she was experiencing. I can’t recall much of what I said during those conversations. We lost her in January 2018, and two weeks later, I had to get back on a plane to do in-person meetings.

Traveling to meet with potential investors was a relief at this time because it served as a temporary distraction from my inner turmoil. I thought the meetings were going well, but my top VC shops ultimately did not move forward, and the ones I was still engaged with were dragging me along. The rejection and failed fundraising round were brutal to process and accept.

Over the next few weeks, my patience for the process grew thin. A few groups who had courted us for over a year suddenly couldn’t get there on valuation. Several kept kicking the tires and asking more and more questions. We needed the growth capital faster than anyone was moving, and I didn’t know how to move the process forward. It felt like we had run out of options.

Feeling defeated, I complained to a few of my gym buddies about the process. One of them jokingly said, “let’s raise the money today.” I laughed, but then he made a few calls, which led to a few more, and we had $3M committed in about 48 hours!

After I watched my mom pass, nothing felt more difficult to me than that. I needed a fresh look at the process, and my inner confidence in our success grew. The fear that once gripped me about selling and fundraising loosened its grip, and people wanted to be a part of that energy. I didn’t fear rejection and flipped my perspective to believe anyone who wasn’t on board wasn’t the right partner for us at the time (and that was okay). I successfully leveraged my pain and rejection into building blocks. Napoleon Hill was right. My “adversity and heartbreak carried with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that everyone can take to become free from the fear of failure”? Please share a story or an example for each.

If you’re building something great, you cannot avoid failures along the journey. Accepting that failures will be sources of education and inspiration is a better place to focus our energy. I’ve experienced failure across most functions in my decades-long journey in building a national consumer packaged foods brand, and I have lived to tell many stories of the “messy middle.” A few things I’ve learned along the way that have helped me cope with failure are:

Identify the fear and from where it derives. What is the root of this fear? Ask yourself if this fear is grounded in truth. On the way to my first big meeting with a retailer, I said aloud, with my wife listening, “there’s no way these guys are going to give us a shot.” I now know that was my brain trying to protect itself from the potential rejection. Fortunately, my wife responded, “then why are you even going? If you’re not going with the mindset to win the business, don’t bother going.” Whoa! At that moment, I had to recognize that my fear was grounded in potential rejection. However, I didn’t have the business either way, and why not ask for it? What did I really have to lose? If they said no, I would still gain valuable experience navigating a meeting like that. The fear was rooted in a limiting belief system and would prevent me from showing up to the meeting with confidence and conviction. Thankfully, my wife’s comment snapped me out of it.

Change the Soundtrack — One of my favorite authors is Jon Acuff. His most recent book, “Soundtracks,” teaches you to turn down the volume of negative self-talk and replace negativity and limiting thoughts with new soundtracks. He says, “Flip it Upside Down — Take out a broken soundtrack and simply ask ‘What’s the opposite of this?’ Then you have your answer. What’s the opposite of a dismissive statement like ‘That will never work here’? A curious question like ‘I wonder how that could work here?’ The words aren’t all that different, but the results are.”

Visualize success. We’ve heard a lot about visualizing success from many thought leaders, and it’s because it works. Give yourself a few minutes of mindfulness daily to visualize and think about how success looks and feels to you. This practice works when performed consistently. For years, I have spent time daily imagining my life 5–10 years down the road, and I can attest that the vast majority of the things I visualized having in my life continue to manifest as I combine them with hard work.

Plan for the worst-case scenario. If something goes wrong, map out the worst-case scenario and put contingency plans in place. Having a backup plan will put your mind more at ease. We always do this. When launching a new product or kicking off a new idea, we always make space for mapping out a worst-case scenario and contingency planning against it.

Accept that all successful people experience failure and welcome it as part of the journey — make sure you alchemize those learnings into your next move. Viewing failure as a chance to grow makes it much easier to overcome. I have countless moments where failure has carried with it the seed of greater success.

The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.” Based on your experience, have you found this quote to be true? What do you think Aristotle really meant?

I think he meant that the path to success is through many failures. Success is gained by experiencing multiple losses. I have absolutely found this to be true in my life so far. If you’re not failing, you’re probably not making progress.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I’m so glad you asked this question.

What if I professed that an exceptionally unifying place exists right in your home? And not only is it a singular gathering ground, but also the hub of sustenance and nourishment for the mind, body, and soul. It’s a place to celebrate, share, and satisfy the most primal human needs. It can bridge cultures and offer sturdy and safe proximity to foster unity and understanding.

It is your table. As in, your kitchen table. Or your dining room table. Or whatever flat surface upon which food is placed and around which folks sit together.

As I mentioned, I lost my mom to cancer in January 2018 after a seven-year battle. One of the things I learned about this terrible disease is that it does not discriminate. You all know this; every person reading here has been affected somehow by this ubiquitous plague. But to sit in those (around-the-clock) radiation and chemotherapy clinics, you witness peers of humans having a hard time. No one much notices your background, your sexual orientation, or the color of your skin. Instead, a common empathy flows through the halls and treatment rooms, creating an unexpected, but comforting little community that reaches across races, generations, and belief systems.

And this brings me to the inspiration to “return to the table.”

Growing up, my home was THE gathering place. This had nothing to do with the size of the house (it was tiny) and everything to do with its aroma. My mom cooked for the neighborhood — literally — and everyone always felt at home and welcome under our roof. She was the go-to when it came to cooking for milestone events: graduations, birthdays, weddings, and even funerals. It was customary to have extended family, and, at times, scores of neighbors drop by for dinner. When I found myself delivering the eulogy to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of the kind community pillar at the center of these meals, I asked anyone for whom my mother had ever cooked a meal to stand. Unsurprised but with my knees trembling, I watched as every single one of the more than 300 guests rose to their feet. At that profound and undeniable moment, I recommitted myself to honor and carry on the impact she had on so many lives.

Now that I’m older, I realize this impact extended well beyond the plate and the palate. At my house, everyone felt at home. Amid the chaos of a full house and the revolving door of guests, there was an overarching peace in that little home. Now I know why. My mom always cooked, and people would show up for her fantastic food. But once there, they’d also share their experiences, opinions, ideas, and sorrows. They’d laugh together and cry together. They would debate (okay, argue), and then they would clasp hands and pray together. My mother had created a space for people to find connection and community. And simply put, the dinner table facilitated that relationship. I believe communion among humans is necessary and critical for our mental health and authentic happiness. A table is a place where we can break down barriers. It’s where life’s most valuable lessons are learned. So it doesn’t hurt if these conversations are fostered by the passing of delicious dishes.

Share a meal with your neighbor. Don’t rush dinner with your family. Eat the dessert sometimes and lean into each other’s company. My journey at The New Primal began with healthy snacking rooted in animal welfare and clean ingredients. It has now expanded into bringing people back together around the table. Honestly, I never saw it coming. But it makes perfect sense… just as I believed creating ways to make healthy eating easy and delicious would inspire healthier snacking, so can it inspire a return to the table. It’s a noble calling and one my mom would be proud of. I invite you to join me.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)

This might be the most challenging question to answer. How does someone decide between so many inspirational leaders? If I harken back to who was the most influential person in my earliest days, I keep returning to Tim Ferris. His book recommendations, practical tips, and his actual books have all played a vital role in my journey. I’d love to thank him personally for his impactful influence on my life and entrepreneurial journey. I met Tim once at an event in Charleston, South Carolina, where he gave a talk while passing through. We took a photo and chatted for about two minutes about one of his favorite books, “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.” He’s someone who inspires and encourages me through his work, and I’ve always admired his willingness to vulnerably share his personal struggles with mental health.

Finally, tying in with this article, Tim gave a Ted Talk once on Fear-Setting as a strategy for overcoming the paralysis that comes with overthinking, and it’s something I’ve used over the years to help me reduce my own overthinking paralysis. It could be instrumental in helping the readers of this article too. I’ll leave you with a quote from Tim I often reference — “If the challenge we face doesn’t scare us, then it’s probably not that important.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow me on LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.



Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC), Journalist, Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor