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I'm looking for a word that sums up one's journey from beginner to master in any given field. Let's say there's a pianist who practiced from childhood 10 hours a day for 20 years to become a master.

What would that journey be called? Archaic/nonstandard words are fine.

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I think journeymanship might work. It means the state before mastery. – patrick Oct 26 '11 at 18:00
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Apprenticeship, "a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a skill," may be appropriate.

Dues-paying also is used. Examples from link: "He spent his dues-paying years as a cocktail pianist. ... She had many years of dues-paying before her abilities were recognized."

Another relevant phrase, albeit not a single word, is honing his or her craft. Examples are easily found on the web. For example, journalnow.com writes in a headline, "Honing his craft on stage and screen: Michael Shannon is selected as RiverRun’s Emerging Master for 2011" and in the second half of the article lists Shannon's stage experience, from high school forward.

Note, for any of these terms, you might have to add "arduous" or "travail-filled" in front, or work in "seasoned veteran", if you want to indicate much hard work was involved.

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I described this to someone that I knew had read Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers as someone's "Gladwell Curve". In the book, he outlines how 10,000 hours of practice are required for mastery of a subject. This is, admittedly, quite obscure.

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No it's not. Gladwell's hypothesis is well known and oft-cited. – Robusto Oct 26 '11 at 2:13
I'm glad to hear that from someone else. – Chris B. Behrens Oct 26 '11 at 3:08
+1 This was exactly what came to my mind (and I've never read the book myself). – T.E.D. Oct 26 '11 at 18:04

You'll find (personal) development used several times in Seven Step to Mastery. Since this also uses OP's metaphorical journey, I think it's appropriate for OP's context.

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