Thanks for sharing the bit about Todd. I've never heard that approach but it makes sense.
Ever since I became serious about art my approach has been to constantly fill my mental library with works and words from the best. If all you expose yourself to is the top rung then over time I believe it influences how you look at and think about art (for the better, of course). Then if you want to check your progress at any time just pull out some old sketches or artworks that you did and compare them with what you're currently doing. If you've been working hard you're virtually guaranteed to see progress.
Hope that wasn't too confusing.