The other four-letter 'f' word holding you back

Peter Bosilkovski, CEO, Clemenger BBDO Sydney
By Peter Bosilkovski, CEO, Clemenger BBDO Sydney | 3 October 2019
Peter Bosilkovski

As a kid, I was banned from using the "f" word. As an adult and business leader, there’s a different four-letter ‘f’ word I’d like to ban: Fear. Why? Because I’ve learnt the greatest barrier between having an ambition, and realising it, is fear. 

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear" are not just words on my office wall. They’re words I live by. Once you hurdle fear and embrace failure, nothing can stand in your way. 

There’s no question the decisions we make in life determine the type of life we lead. I’ve seen too many good people make conservative choices in their lives and careers, staying in jobs they don’t like - and failing in them. If you can fail doing something you don’t want to do, why not try something you really do love? 

Fear of failure holds you back and stunts progress. It stops you stepping out of your comfort zone. It dents your confidence and stops you not only from learning, but from feeling alive. It will stop you from starting a company – or changing one. It stops you from learning and progressing forward. Eric Hoffer beautifully summed it up - “In times of change the learners will inherit the earth, while the knowers will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists”. No entrepreneur or great leader feared failure. They embraced it.

Fear freezes people in their tracks. Stops them doing anything. You 100% won’t fail if you don’t try something - but you won’t change either. And, in the new business world, failure to change is still failure.

Passion + Action = Innovation. 

So how do you overcome fear to embrace innovation? You trump fear with passion and action.

Staring down fear creates opportunities. It gives birth to innovation. And embracing innovation is the hallmark of future-facing, successful businesses. No industry or organisation has a mortgage on innovation. That is clear in this year’s AFR’s 50 Most Innovative Companies list (, where banks sit alongside educators, airlines, scientists with couriers, pet food makers, property developers – and, yes, even advertising agencies, that continue to redefine themselves.

Passion crushes fear. It inspires and gets you through the inevitable challenges you face along the way. Passion builds conviction and confidence. It makes you feel a little less rational, and allows you to go beyond what is expected of you - to do things others say aren’t possible.

Passion doesn’t judge, it’s inclusive at its core. It shines the light on you and sets you apart. It becomes contagious and spreads like wild fire. People are drawn to it.

You can’t put a price tag or value on passion. And no one can take it from you – you only give it away when you give up or give in. It’s your competitive advantage in life and business. You don’t need to be the smartest person to succeed. If you have passion and aren’t afraid to take risks, you will succeed.

It’s the difference between the fearful and the fearless; the risk-averse ‘same-makers’ and the passionate, innovative change-makers.

Don’t try? That’s failure. Nothing changes.

The change-makers think. Dream. Dare. And do. With passion. And in the knowledge it might not work – but they try anyway.

Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

Peter Bosilkovski is CEO at Clemenger BBDO Sydney.

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