Portfolio
Ideas
August 23, 2016 12:37 PM EDT
Sjodin is the author of Scrappy

We all have dreams, wishes, and hopes for the future—a desire to accomplish certain things in our lives. We all experience challenging situations that make us say: “OK, now what?” We hope someday we will get a break, and it will magically happen (whatever your “it” is). As time goes by, we may find ourselves so deeply entrenched in daily life that our dreams can get pushed aside. We realize they don’t come easily. Sometimes, even when we do get a shot at a dream, it feels like the odds are stacked against us. The competition is tough and we know it! So sometimes we postpone our efforts—or maybe even self-select out.

Maybe you’re standing at a crossroads or have encountered a roadblock. Maybe you just aren’t sure what’s next. Under these same circumstances, when I’m stuck, I look to those inspiring individuals who have what call a “scrappy mindset”—or “scrappers.”

A scrapper is a person who is a fighter or serious competitor, especially one always ready or eager for a bout or contest. Think in terms of the best lightweight scrapper in boxing. Let’s not take this literally—you don’t need to be overly aggressive and get in a scuffle. I’m speaking to the spirit of the word. To simply call their scrappy successes miracles or lucky breaks would suggest it is not possible to replicate their methods, but the good news is you can. Scrappers don’t just think about what could be—they execute a scrappy effort and make things happen.

Through the years, I have followed their lead and attempted to break through barriers, find a window when I can’t go through the front door, and beat the odds. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it always feels better to do something and shake things up a bit. Even when a plan fails to work, it creates new avenues of thought and other pathways that push things forward.

Even if the chances of being seen, heard, discovered, or selected for a specific opportunity seem slim, when you get the chance, how do you make it count? How do you make yourself stand out? How do you get noticed in a positive way? Simple. You apply resourceful and creative inspiration to your situation and give yourself the edge. You work smarter and get scrappy!

Is the essence of getting scrappy found in one’s attitude, a well-crafted strategy or ultimately the execution of an effort? The answer is yes—all three!

Attitude: Having a scrappy attitude speaks to your mindset. It’s the “fire in your belly” and a determined nature or spirit that can’t really be quantified. Common denominators and distinct behavior patterns are clearly visible in the stories of scrappy people. Before taking action, their scrappy perspectives and mindset allowed them to view the obstacles in their path with curiosity and confidence rather than fear and defeat. A scrapper exhibits an active imagination, a penchant for risk taking, stubbornness, and a sense of appreciation, gratitude and mindfulness.

Strategy: Coming up with a clever idea, a work-around or a game-changing tactic is a key component of the scrappy philosophy. Sure, with the right attitude you can put in the effort, but it’s the right strategy that can change the game to save you time, money, sanity and more. A scrappy strategy encompasses all of your efforts—research, due diligence and sweat equity. To craft a strategy, you will develop your approach to key decision makers, invest in the process, and cultivate your best ideas. One simple but critical component is simply showing up—being present and willing to get in the ring and do the work. If your initial plan falls apart, your ability to morph your strategy along the way and stay the course is often what will pull you through. This is where your intuition, your ability to adapt, and your preparation help minimize losses and increase your wins.

Execution: Scrappy execution is about putting your plan of action into play. Upon execution, you will “put your tush on the line” and sometimes take real risks to reap significant rewards. If you want your circumstances to change, at some point you have to stop strategizing and launch. The execution of a scrappy strategy transitions from planning into actual engagement, moving forward on a course of action you have developed (whether simple or elaborate). It’s the “go” phase and typically happens when someone is motivated by a time-related circumstance, driving a person to engage his or her creativity in a groundbreaking or thought-provoking way. It can be an experiment or a mission of conviction.

Anyone can be scrappy. It’s a choice to play big, or at least big for you. It’s what you do when you’re all in and ready to put your tush on the line.

Adapted from SCRAPPY by Terri Sjodin with permission of Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright (c) Terri L. Sjodin, 2016.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

Read More From TIME

Related Stories

EDIT POST