Are You A Firebrand?

Nobody remembers the also-rans. If you want to drive your company or yourself to new heights, you have to ignite your firebrand and become a category of one. It’s time to do something so different that it can’t be ignored.


We all come across two types of companies (and individuals) in our lives. First there are those that blend in with the others, swim in a sea of sameness, and ooze mediocrity. They don’t like to stand out, prefer the safety of the masses, and eke out a profit (or a living).

And then there are firebrands.

I really don’t care which rental car I drive, paper towel I use, or energy drink I consume. In many industries the difference between one choice and another is similar to the margin of winning Olympic gold. One toothpaste adds vanilla, the other adds ginseng. It’s an arms race of ho-hum blandness in which no one stands out.

Of course, this applies to people just like companies. In today’s uber-competitive workforce, it’s the responsibility of each of us to build our own personal brand. A good degree and the promise of obedience no longer cut it as they did 20 years ago. Today you’ll reach your goals and dreams based on your capacity to differentiate yourself, not your ability to blend in.

Whether you’re working to drive your company or career, the key to unlocking your full potential is creating a story that is unique, captivating, and irresistible. A firebrand.

The dictionary defines “firebrand” as:


1. a piece of burning wood or other material
2. a person who kindles strife or encourages unrest; an agitator; troublemaker

I can’t think of a more important recipe for success in today’s turbulent times. The ones who make history do just that. They are burning with passion and creativity. They disrupt, cajole, and thumb their noses at tradition. They stick their fingers in the eye of conventional wisdom.

Fire spreads. Fire consumes. Fire energizes. Fire transforms. Fire clears out the old and makes room for the new.

Firebrands don’t try to be all things to all people. Instead, they concentrate and focus energy that can’t be ignored. Firebrands alienate and inspire, offend and compel.

You can’t help notice a blazing fire and you can’t help notice a white-hot firebrand. There are thousands of deal-of-the-day sites, and then there’s the firebrand of Groupon. There are dozens of me-too airlines, and then there’s the firebrand brilliance of JetBlue. There are endless formulaic TV shows, but then there’s the irresistible firebrand of Glee.

Same thing goes for people. Can you name one professional cyclist other than the firebrand of Lance Armstrong? Mark Zuckerberg’s firebrand was so compelling they made a major motion picture about it. Martin Luther King Jr.’s firebrand changed the trajectory of racial equality forever.


Nobody remembers the also-rans. If you want to drive your company or yourself to new heights, it’s time to ignite your firebrand. It’s time to become a category of one. It’s time to do something so different that it can’t be ignored.

We all have a choice. We can resign our companies and ourselves to a life of bland-vanilla mediocrity. Or we can unleash our true potential and make a difference. Time to spark up your firebrand, and force the world to take notice.

Anyone got a match?

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About the author

Josh Linkner is the New York Times Bestselling author of Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity, named one of the top 10 business books of 2011. Josh is the CEO and Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners