When Chris Reining became disillusioned with the 9-to-5 grind, he realized he had another option.
"I took a step back and noticed I was working, getting money, and spending money," he writes on his blog. "But what if instead, I was working to save, and saving to invest, so I could stop working?"
Reining, who is based in Madison, Wisc., decided to buckle down and set the goal of building a $1 million portfolio by age 35. The now 38-year-old did just that, thanks to smart saving and investing habits, and officially retired from his IT job at 37.
"You might think when your account rolls over to seven digits that fireworks light up the sky, confetti falls, and the champagne starts flowing," writes Reining, who remembers the moment being a letdown. "I can tell you that doesn't happen. In fact, it was pretty anti-climatic. I was like, 'Oh, cool,' and then went back to work."
In fact, making his first $1,000 from investing was more memorable than crossing the $1 million threshold, Reining says: "That meant my investments could make me $10,000, which meant that they could make me $25,000, and so on." It changed his mindset and made him realize that becoming a millionaire at 35 was in fact possible.
Self-made millionaire Grant Cardone, who was deep in debt before earning his fortune, had a similar experience.
"I remember that $3,000 leap better than I remember the first million I made," he tells CNBC of the time he went from making $3,000 a month to $6,000 a month in his commission-based job. "It was more important to me."
That's because that first achievement changed his mindset, the way he thought about money, and that's what eventually led to his seven-figure status.
He explains: "That $3,000 showed me that it's possible for me to change my condition. ... It changed my confidence. It changed my belief in me, and it also changed how I considered and defined my own potential."
After all, the wealthiest people tend to view the world differently than the average person.