How Long Does it Take to Become an Expert?
Researchers (Hayes, Bloom) have shown it takes about ten years to develop expertise in any of a wide variety of areas, including chess playing, music composition, painting, piano playing, swimming, tennis, and research in neuropsychology and topology. There appear to be no real shortcuts: even Mozart, who was a musical prodigy at age 4, took 13 more years before he began to produce world-class music. In another genre, the Beatles seemed to burst onto the scene, appearing on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. But they had been playing since 1957, and while they had mass appeal early on, their first great critical success, Sgt. Peppers, was released in 1967. Samuel Johnson thought it took longer than ten years: "Excellence in any department can be attained only by the labor of a lifetime; it is not to be purchased at a lesser price." And Chaucer complained "the lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne."This comes from Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years, an article that whacks at the phenom of rush-job programming books. Check the site out as it also contains good points that are generalizable to other fields.
colophon: I'm finding links now by reading blogdex's 4th page which mostly contains junk, but every now and then yields hidden gems.