I’ll close with one more example, showing how this strategy can be used personally as well. I was at a party once and I told someone I was writing a book and that I wanted it to be a bestseller. They laughed at that and I think it’s because they had a theory of action model in their head: you write the best book you can, and of course you want it to be a bestseller, but either it does or it doesn’t.
But I was working backwards, I had a theory of change: I asked, What makes something a best seller? Well, lots of people buy it. OK, how do you get lots of people to buy something? Well, you have to persuade them it’s something they want. OK, how do you persuade them it’s something they want? Well, first it has to meet some desire or need they have and second you need to explain to them how it meets that need. So what are the desires or needs people have? (Looking at bestsellers: entertainment, escape, self-improvement, etc.) What are the ways of explaining your book meets their need? (Being popular early on, appearances in the media, persuading readers to tell other readers, etc.)
Again, we can keep going for quite a while until we get all the way back to something I can actually do. But because of this, I didn’t have to simply have to hope that my book became a bestseller, like every other author. I could actually do something about it.
I re-read this a few times a year just as I do with "No matter how full a reservoir of maxims one may possess, and no matter how good one’s sentiments may be, if one have not taken advantage of every concrete opportunity to act, one’s character may remain entirely unaffected for the better."