Unfortunately, I spent most of my life dreaming of the big score, the moment when all my troubles would cease and I’d be rich, respected and happy. Back when I was a musician I would ignore my actual impoverished living situation by day-dreaming about the house I’d live in when we had “made it”. Even when I became a financial adviser, I kept thinking about how great it would be when I finally landed that one huge client, the client that would pay me so much it would end all my financial concerns forever.

It never happened.

It was never going to happen.

Never-the-less, without any Hollywood-style miracles, without any big scores, there I was, standing in my own house, realizing that I had achieved financial independence. Realizing that at this point, if I really want to, I can retire. From now on, the work I do is the work I want to do.

How did I get here?

Well, partly I got here by making very different decisions from the ones most people make. I never had kids and don’t want kids. I am happy to rent rooms in my house out to other people.

But in large part, I got here through a tedious series of tiny victories. I got here by following the formula for success that was handed down to me by other advisers, and following that formula every single day.

Progress was slow. And it was mostly invisible to anyone but myself. The most important battles I won are battles no one besides me knows about–forcing myself to pick up the phone one more time, to face rejection one more time, to meet just once with a prospect I figured would never become a client, to teach a class that only three people signed up for on the off chance that one of them might be a connection I would need later, to show up, over and over again, to events that I wasn’t excited about going to, to start uncomfortable conversations with strangers where there was a minuscule chance that I would ever get anything out of it…

I celebrated every single one of those tiny victories. I celebrated them whether I succeeded or failed. I celebrated the simple fact that I made an effort. Celebrating the effort itself changed me as a person. It turned me into someone who cares only about effort and direction, not results. And that changed person was able to constantly make progress, which of course, led to results. The progress was slow. But it added up, and I never back-tracked.

In my own life this has been true of everything that matters. Recovering from mental illness, changing my own toxic behaviors, learning how to relate better to other people, learning to dance, learning to sing, learning how to take care of my house. Any time I’ve had “miraculous” progress, it always ends up being an illusion. It lasts for maybe a few months, and then I am right back to where I started.

Miracles make a good fantasy. But the only real progress is the slow slog of small victories and tiny celebrations.