3 Ways to Get Scrappy and Get What You Want in Life

UPDATED: December 5, 2016
PUBLISHED: December 5, 2016

SCRAPPY \’skra-pe\ adj: Full of fighting spirit—synonymous with having moxie, being feisty, enthusiastic, gutsy, lively and spunky


We all have wishes, dreams and hopes for the future, but as the old saying goes, you can wish, dream, hope and pray, but when you pray—move your feet! After all, in today’s competitive market, it takes more than just showing up, more than persistence, more than just having a dream to get what you want in life. Sometimes you have to roll up your shirtsleeves and get a little scrappy to beat the odds. And what better time to kick-start your creativity than at the dawning of a new year? Sure, it sounds a little daunting, but you don’t get noticed if you’re doing all the same things everyone else is doing.

Related: 10 Little Things Successful People Do Differently

Scrappy people face challenges head on and find unexpected paths to extraordinary results. They move forward even in the face of adversity, using ingenuity and clever workarounds. They aren’t just lucky. They’re hardworking, everyday people, like the advertising sales professional who created a unique plan to gain access to a difficult prospect, got the shot and won the deal. Or the ambitious college students who crafted a series of efforts to convince Katie Couric to speak at their commencement ceremony (and she did). They’re people like the entrepreneur who transformed his home into an indoor jungle to sell investors on his idea that would become the wildly popular Rainforest Café restaurant chain.

Each of these individuals and countless others have made what I call “scrappy plays” to push past roadblocks, create movement when things were blocked, or just simply move their intentions forward faster with class and style. You don’t have to always go for the big win. Sometimes small plans are a better strategy.

Here are a few tips from Scrappy: A Little Book About Choosing to Play Big to help you stand out from the crowd:

1. Choose to get scrappy.

It all starts with attitude. Having a scrappy attitude is characterized by your mindset and speaks to your fighting spirit. It’s about the “fire in your belly” and a determined nature that can’t really be quantified. When you foster a scrappy attitude, you’re far more likely to commit to making a scrappy play, and when you do, it changes your perspective. In fact, simply “deciding to go” changes the game, helping you cultivate new pathways and options to explore.

You are not going to get scrappy every day, but certain situations call for a scrappy effort. It can be a great go-to play when you’re facing some kind of obstacle. This is the point where you harness all of your inspiration and commit to a plan.

2. Craft a truly clever strategy.

Of course everyone wants to come up with that spot-on gesture that’s just the right mix of funny, daring and inspiring to help you get in the door and make something happen. But how do you get there? You can’t just wing it; you have to have a strategy.

Related: Think Big, Start Small and Plan for Success

A scrappy strategy encompasses all your efforts: research, due diligence and sweat equity. It’s the tactical planning necessary to achieve a specific goal. Whatever the goal, it’s crucial to customize your strategy to meet the needs of the recipient and separate yourself from the competition. (Most people will not make this kind of effort and that’s your scrappy advantage.) Remember, the idea is to move your intention forward while also dazzling the key decision maker. The more you know about the person, the easier it will be to tailor your strategy for maximum effect. So do some homework and ask these key questions:

  • What do I know about this individual or the people on this committee?
  • What might be a classy way to approach this person or group?
  • Have I ever met this person or is he or she a complete stranger? If they’re a stranger, who do I know who might be able to introduce me or at least give me additional information about them?

Gather your intel, personal and professional—just don’t go too far. Stalking is creepy, and the goal is to truly and authentically connect with another individual to earn the right to be heard.

After conducting your research, it’s time to think about the timing of your scrappy effort. Where do you see it being most helpful: at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the process? Timing will be a driving force while crafting your strategy. Different scenarios call for different strategies, so remember to stay nimble and open to modifications as circumstances change.

3. Execute.

Scrappy execution is about putting your plan of action into play. It’s the go phase, the transition from planning into actual engagement and moving forward on the course of action you have developed. This is where the risk comes in, but so does the reward. This part of your scrappy effort includes considering your risk tolerance, thinking through your plan, going forward and leaving a little room for serendipity.

If you want your circumstances to change, at some point you have to stop strategizing and launch. At this point, you will transition from planning to execution and put yourself on the line to reap big rewards, whether the strategy you have crafted is simple or elaborate. My advice is to start small with a simple play and then build up from there. As Amelia Earhart said, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it!”

This is just a simple introduction to gaining a scrappy advantage. To be scrappy is about making things happen, getting in the game and going for it. Use your imagination. What if your plan actually works? Imagine that.

Related: Whatever the Project Is, Start Today