Apparently, it takes about 10,000 hours of study to master any complex subject. But, with that study, and a few friends, you can solve problems that are so complex that they border on impossible. In this video, Malcolm Gladwell argues that a dozen disciplined, smart people are more valuable today that one bona-fide genius.
In your job, you might be able to focus 6 hours per day on an important area of expertise, yielding 30 - 40 hours per week of focused effort. Outside of work, you might be able to devote 20 - 30 hours per week on a serious hobby. Of course this will vary for each person, but it seems likely that most people could devote between 20 and 40 hours per week to the study of a particular subject, and still be a normal person. At that rate, it takes between 5 and 10 years to really master a subject. (Mr. Gladwell makes the same estimate in his presentation.) If you could get a job that aligned with your interest, so you could spend a significant part of your work day learning more about it, and you spend some of your off-hours working on the same subject, you might get 50 hours per week of focused study - resulting in 10,000 hours of study after only 4 years.
4 or 5 or 10 years might seem like a long time. It is a long time. My 8 year-old little girl will be going to college in 10 years (eek!). But the time will pass, regardless. And at the end of that long 4 or 5 or 10 years, you can be a world-class master of something. Or you can look back at that long time and wonder where it went.
What are you going to master in your next 10,000 hours?