|XP is just a number|
Something to consider: no matter how good you are at Perl, your skill-set is not particularly unique. So, if all that you have to offer me is, “I know Perl! tah-daaah!” ... I'm gonna give you a blank stare and reply, “So?”
I can take any suitably-washed person off the street and in less than six months turn him or her into a functional Perl programmer. After a manner of speaking, that is...
I could teach him or her the fundamental, basically rote skills of “a code-monkey.” I could also teach him enough to allow him to acquire a certification! But I could not embue him or her with experience.
They say that there are three stages of knowledge:
A person who has proceeded to Mastery no longer seeks validation. He or she might be just as puzzled as the next person when faced with a new and unfamiliar situation, but he or she possesses a depth of experience, from working with this language or from some other, to which the present situation can relate. He or she comes up with a suitable answer, and may or may not be able to immediately say where it came from.
More important than this, though, is the fact that a Master's predictions and strategies, while you may not initially understand them nor appreciate them, will be well-reasoned and reliable. The thought-process expressed by such a person makes startling “intuitive leaps” rather than a pedantic progression. The downside to this approach, though, is that many Masters are very specialized in their knowledge, very-deep though it may be. Yet there are people out there, bringing down salaries well into six figures, who are Masters of many things.
The unionized trades have a formalized progression that matches this: Apprentice, Journeyman, Master. You cannot buy a “fast-forward” button. The only way to progress is... time. Each stage is usually also accompanied by a formal testing and certification process, standard to that union and that industry, but you are required to spend a certain amount of on-the-job time at each stage before being eligible for advancement.