You Gotta Use What You Got

“Sticking very closely to who you are, what you know, and who you know not only tells you what to do, it is also very useful in telling you what not to do.” [1]

     I’d say the above advice heeds well in many life situations, such as taking an unfamiliar job or going on a blind date. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t take risks and maybe go out with someone who isn’t our type, per say; but having an acute sense of self-awareness can serve us well. Maybe it’s just me, but the times I’ve dated someone whose fundamental beliefs were not in line with mine never ended well. I pride myself in being a fairly self-aware person, and although a little red flag was waving around in my gut, I just didn’t listen. So that didn’t end well. Anyone else? Just me? Okay, moving past the dating metaphor: understand who you are and, to quote the rarely produced musical, The Life: “Remember to use whatcha got to get everything you want.”[2]

     Chapter 6 of Effectual Entrepreneurship stresses the importance of being means-driven versus goals-driven, an idea that perhaps hadn’t occurred to me previously. I love making personal goals for myself, maybe even thrive on it, but as this chapter explains, the problem is goals don’t inspire us to take action right now. As I read the chapter, I realized my to-do list is what makes me take action, not necessarily my lofty goals for where I’d like to be after graduation in 2 years. When I write these to-do lists, I’m being means-driven, or understanding what I can and cannot accomplish and just going for it. After all, I know I can clean the bathroom today and I know exactly how to go about accomplishing that; I’m not sure the first step towards publishing my plays and having them produced to wild, international success (uhh…). Goals can be lofty and scary. If we as entrepreneurs are means-driven, we will not wait for a blockbuster idea, or thousands of start-up cash to begin the venture; rather, we will be inspired to take action because we have a clear idea of where to begin.

So how do we know what our means are? In class on Wednesday, we worked on understanding who we are, what we know and who we know, which will add up to what we have, or the resources with which to work. First, we ranked our top five values from a list of 30+, including honesty, faith, humor, health, integrity, passion, success, work, wealth and so on. Writing our values on post-its, they were then stuck to the wall for everyone to check out. There were some definite overlaps, like humor and integrity/honesty, which is a good sign, I’d say.


As we worked our way through the chart, scribbling down our passions and hobbies and ruminating over our knowledge bases and professional networks, there was a fair amount of overlap. We are all about the same age, all studying for Master of Fine Arts degrees at the same school, so performance skills, theatre production skills and the names of faculty at ASU popped up again and again. Nevertheless, as working artists, we do have a wide network of connections across the state, and I am extremely excited to see which resources we can leverage as we begin our business venture.

Our yellow post-its will continue to be used tomorrow when we begin the ideation process. I look forward to challenging myself to remain means-driven over goals-driven and keeping in mind who I am, what I know and who I know in order to understand what I have to contribute to the group.


[1] Read, S., Sarasvathy, S., Dew, N., Wiltbank, R., Ohlsson, A-V. (2011) Effectual Entrepreneurship. New York: Routledge.

[2] Use What You Got Lyrics.

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About Ashley Laverty

Ashley is an M.F.A candidate in the Theatre for Youth program at Arizona State University. She received her B.A in Musical Theatre from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA. As an actress, Ashley has performed nationally for young audiences with the National Theatre for Children, VEE Corporation, Roxy Regional Theatre, Vital Theatre Company, and Storyland, a family amusement park. In Arizona, she teaches Musical Theatre and Acting classes and camps for children ages 3-16 at Childsplay, VOICES Studio and Homestead Playhouse. Ashley is interested in playwriting for a young audience, theatre for the very young and museum theatre. She works with the AZ Science Center and the i.d.e.a. museum.

2 thoughts on “You Gotta Use What You Got

  1. Carter Gillies

    I see what you are saying about means being implicated when you say “When I write these to-do lists, I’m being means-driven, or understanding what I can and cannot accomplish and just going for it.” but it still sounds ends oriented. To me, at least. Its possible I am misunderstanding your point. I was under the impression that to be means-driven was like saying I’ve got a hammer, “What can I do with a hammer?” In that sense its more about the discovery of ends rather than knowing that with the means you’ve got you can get x, y, and z done. Doing only the things within your means is important, but if we end up only doing the stuff that we already conceive of as ends, we are still end-driven.

    For instance, we do only those things and not others. Being means-driven should be openended in what can be accomplished: You are not considering ends as a limit or definition of what things can be aimed for. Its not so much about figuring out how to hit the target as much as its understanding how to shoot and only then figuring out what things are best aimed at. Are the means in your hands better for shooting straight or for lobbing over obstacles? The means should define the ends delivered, not the other way around. There is a cart and a horse, and its important to figure out whether the ends are following the means or if they are leading them……

    Another example: If a car is a means to an end and not an end itself, what does that tell us about where we can be driven? Knowing you have the car as a means, it doesn’t tell you that you need to get to work, you have an appointment after school, you need to pick up groceries, etc…. Those are all ends within your means. The means itself may be prejudiced in certain respects: you can’t go very far off-road, and you can’t travel over moderate sized bodies of water. But in other respects its agnostic. The means are not ends. How are they different?

    You are the owner of a theatre company: What productions can you possibly offer? What are the limits of where you can take them? What are the potential ends you may eventually wind up with? Children’s theatre? Abcient Greek Tragedy? Kabuki? You’ve got this pool of actors, what things can you try to do? Your stage is only so big, can you expand the performance among the audience? What things are possible within your means?

    The trick is avoiding the temptation to smuggle ends into our decision making. Anything we want to or feel we have to do prejudices us in favor of those ends. If you look at the means themselves honestly you will often be surprised at the things you are capable of. Looking at the means will sometimes teach us more than we ever expected we could do. By their grace new ends will be discovered, new things to care about. You have a blank piece of paper and a pencil. What are you going to draw? Or write?

    That’s how it seems to me, at least. 🙂

    Good luck!


    1. Ashley Laverty Post author

      Thanks for this thoughtful response!

      With my to-do list analogy, I was attempting to illustrate the idea of taking action rather than waiting for opportunities to come to you. For example, I have a to-do list in front of me and it tells me to vacuum the living room. I know where the vacuum cleaner is in my apartment, I have an hour this afternoon and I am going to accomplish this menial task.

      You’re right though! In my attempt, I ended up discussing goals, albeit much smaller and easily accomplished, but still goals. However, I believe this can still be considered means-driven because I was utilizing what resources were already in front of me: I already had the vacuum cleaner, I had the living room and I had the time to clean. So, yes, absolutely, a to-do list perhaps wasn’t the best example for me to use in this post, but there is still an opportunity to be means-driven in a goals-oriented setting.

      Liked by 1 person

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