I wanna start this off by saying that poker is poker.  Yes, even at the highest levels, the game is still played exactly the same way.  Sure, there are deeper thoughts going on among the players, but basic strategies still exist, and adjusting based on opponent imagery is still a necessity.  That's why it's okay to play at levels you may not be used to for a little while to try and break up the monotony that every poker player must deal with now and then.  The main idea I want to express is to not be afraid of players that you perceive to be better than you.  Rising to the next level isn't nearly as difficult if you can win by playing a well thought out game.  You cannot do this at 2 nl or 5 nl or even 10 nl most of the time.  Your level of profit may be steadily going up, but this is often from just playing robotically, playing the same textured hands from the same positions.  I like to think of these lower levels as a place to "train:"  to see if I really am a strong player, and not get beat by players of much lesser skill levels.  Of course, when raising the stakes, you become more vulnerable as the simple change in volitility can make you start to LOSE faster.  You also have to be willing to "wear your heart on your sleave" to pull off a good move to win a pot--things you simply won't have the opportunity to do at the lower levels.  In essence, your poker game cannot expand by only playing the lower levels.  You have to have a driving will to risk money to win money, and not be afraid to take a loss if you know a win will be coming right around the corner, assuming the cards that "should" hold up do.  All of this can be said for playing tournaments, too:  oftentimes, even buyins above $10 have players that are as bad as the $1 all in monkeys.  That's why, if your a relatively new player that feels like they have skills better situated for advanced play, you should be willing to risk a little more to make playing tournaments worth your time.  Just as in every poker game, every player has the capacity to be exploited.  There is nobody on earth who is perfect.  The game has too many variations to create perfect scenarios anywhere near 100% of the time.  Each player (for the most part) at the higher levels once played at the bottom.  No matter what route they took to move on, they are human beings with weaknesses, with human brains that work all too similarly to your own.  I think the illustion that certain players are untouchable is nonsense, and if you have the braveness to take them on, it can make for one interesting game--one which you can and WILL learn quite a bit from!  And while we all normally think about poker as a ladder that leads straight upward, there's always an opportunity to move back down to sharpen our skills a little more to prepare for the trip back up.  It's variety that keeps your head in the game.  Don't feel like you skimped out on your lessons when you move up allegedly too early.  In baseball, it doesn't matter how you reach base--it only matters if you score a run.  But the fact that you can reach base increases your chances.  Don't refuse to believe that you can't move up right away, if you come into the game with your A game and an open mind.