So I told him the same thing I tell all of them.
It's taken me forty years to get where I am. Two college degrees. Long periods of not making much money but getting a lot of great experience. Mentoring by many generous people smarter than I am. A lot of hard work. Many late nights and more than a few weekends. Even a skipped vacation or two. Occasional good judgement. Some luck. It helps a lot that I love what I do so much that I do it even when I'm not getting paid for it. There could be a faster way to get here, but you're asking the wrong guy what it is.
This is never a popular answer.
(Thanks to my friend and colleague Doug Young for suggesting the title.)