I’ve always thought of that “inflection point” as something similar to learning a second language (spoken language, that is). When you are immersed in that learning situation, one day you may understand every word in a sentence someone says to you, but understanding the meaning is such a struggle. Then one day…BOOM… you wake up to find that it all ‘clicks.’ The sentence is suddenly in focus, and the meaning of the whole conversation is now in view. I experienced this as an exchange student in Spain and have talked to several other people who have had the same ah-ha moment with a foreign language. I call it ‘breaking the sound barrier.’ It is completely non-linear — you’ve just been storing this and that piece to the puzzle for a long and frustrating period, like the young child who has been listening to the parents for 18 months and then suddenly bursts open with his own, very confident, vocabulary.
I don’t remember the exact day that I ‘broke the sound barrier’ with programming, but I know it happened. And I remember how hard it was before, and how great it felt after.