At this moment, Kris and I are driving home from a long weekend in Central Oregon. Every year, we rent a home in Sunriver, and spend three days with some of our best friends. It’s great fun. (Yesterday I played golf for the first time in eight years, and I have a nasty sunburn to show for it.)

We also use this trip as a chance to see one of Kris’ college roommates. Eila moved to Bend about a decade ago, and now we only see her once a year. At lunch Saturday, we caught up on each other’s lives.

“How’s the box factory?” Eila asked me.

“Well,” I said, “I’m not actually working at the box factory anymore.”

“What are you doing instead?” she asked.

“Do you know about Get Rich Slowly?” I asked. She shook her head. “I’m a writer now. I work from home,” I said. “I have a web site about personal finance.”

Eila chuckled. “That’s a little strange, don’t you think? Do you follow your own advice?” she said, smiling. She remembers how poor my money skills were, even back in college.

“I try,” I said. “But I’m not perfect.”

“You used to have real trouble with money,” she said. “It seems surprising that you’d be writing about it.”

“That’s true,” I said. “But I’ve come a long way in the past three years.”

I really have come a long way. It’s amazing to think about. Just three years ago, I was over $35,000 in debt and living paycheck-to-paycheck despite a decent salary. I had no savings. I had no concept of money management.

Now I’m debt-free, have a sizable emergency fund, and am saving for retirement. I’m constantly learning more about personal finance, and am trying to share that knowledge with thousands of other people.

What impresses me most, though, are not my own accomplishments, but what they represent. When people overcome huge obstacles, they often say, “If I can do it, anyone can.” It’s a cliché — and never literally true — but I think there’s something very real to this sentiment. When we face our own demons and defeat them, we realize that through force of will, others can do the same. We recognize that each of us possesses inner strength that can lead to a better life. Through dedication, we can all achieve our goals.

I’ve recently begun running. When I head out for an eight mile jaunt, it can be daunting. Eight miles — that’s a long way. But I know that if I focus on just running the few hundred yards ahead of me, and then the few hundred yards after that, eventually I’ll have completed eight miles. My goal is to run the entire distance, but I mentally divide this into smaller chunks to make the process more manageable.

Many of you have recently begun your own personal finance journeys, and you may feel that the course ahead of you is overwhelming. There’s such a long way to go! So much debt to re-pay! So much wealth to build! But I believe if you focus on the tasks immediately at hand, your long-term goals will be easy to reach. It’s my hope that sometime in the future, you’ll be able to look back and say, “Wow, I’ve come a long way in the past three years.”

After all, if I can do it, anyone can.

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