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How Setting Modest Goals Can Lead Toward Success

1. Debt Snowball

Financial struggles often feel insurmountable: Will I ever be able to retire if I can't get out of debt? Personal-finance guru Dave Ramsey recommends making a "debt snowball" by combining small amounts of money that would be spent on frivolities ("snowflakes"). The resulting lump sum, or snowball, can be used to pay off creditors.

2. Blockbuster Video

The veteran chain looked like a goner a year ago, after bleeding red in 2007. After implementing a series of small changes, such as increasing its focus on video games, Blockbuster's same-store sales rose 5.1% in Q3 2008.

3. Mickey Rourke

Once billed as the next Brando, the actor-cum-boxer let his erratic behavior derail his career. Rourke's turnaround began with a very personal role written for him in a low-budget movie, and his success in The Wrestler earned him a Golden Globe this year — and a second chance. Now, he has landed roles in two mainstream thrillers: The Informers (out May 1) and 13 (out next year).

A version of this article appeared in the March 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.