What follows is simply my opinion based on observations that I have made. If this is of no use to you, simply disregard. Otherwise I hope you get something out of it.
I've had the luxury of training under, and with, people that have been around for a while. I have observed key difference in the way they train and the way beginners train. The biggest difference (in my opinion) between a beginner and someone who has been on the mat for a while is...mindset. Now I'm guessing that the first thing that would have come to mind would have been technique. While technique is one of the biggest differences, they (experienced ones) would have never gotten to that point without the proper mindset.
First of all their game and training is founded on "basics". They seem to approach training with a plan. They have identified weaknesses they want to improve on, new techniques to learn, or "basic" moves to polish. Don't get me wrong. These folks come to class, participate, and pay attention to everything. However I suspect that in the back of their minds they know what the plan is and they fit it in where appropriate...especially during rolling.
Another very noticeable attribute of the experienced is winning and losing. They don't do it. They don't win when they tap someone, and they don't lose when they get caught...they just train and learn. They realized that rolling at the gym is not Abu Dhabi, and no one is going to hand them 10K for submitting someone...regardless who they submit. Or for that matter promoted because they have been “catching” everyone in the gym. Again, it's training.
Strength is next. When I roll with them I feel that they don't use strength, whether they have it or not. You would be hard pressed to catch these people "powering" out of a submission or bad position. It's almost always quite the opposite, they are so adept at using leverage that it leaves you scratching your head how they got out of that position you had them in. Frankly most of them look physically unimposing. They are physically fit and conditioned to choke the life out of you for hours on end, but they don't look threatening in any way. Which is a testament to the art and that your bench press (regardless how impressive it may be) has nothing to do with your ability to be good at Jiu Jitsu.
The last point is time. They have put it in! In the era of instant gratification people want to get good at everything quick. Jiu Jitsu looks so easy on TV, the internet, or even in class. The fact of the matter is those people have put in hundreds, if not thousands of hours on the mat; getting submitted, smashed, and egos crushed. They have repeated moves over and over. They have gone thru injuries, frustrations, and not to mention monetary cost. At the end of the day a belt is just a piece of cloth that holds their Gi closed, but what it really represents is all the hard work, dedication and effort that that person has put in.
I leave you with these ideas I learned from those that came before me, that I have been implementing:
Mindset: Get your head straight before you come to training. Have a plan, and if that plan doesn't include mastering the basics first, discard it and create another.
Stop competing: There is a time for competing and a time for training. Events such as tournaments and even hard rolling have their advantages, but not during every practice, and all the time. In the long run you will hinder your progress because you are scared of "losing". If you are going to grow in this art you can't be scared of losing, because it’s not losing. You are simply falling forward.
Strength: Leave it at home, or in your car, or wherever you want...just don’t bring it to class. Again when you use your strength and power the only person you are actually helping is your training partner. Because they get good at Jiu Jitsu and you just get a work out...until you run into that person that's stronger than you. Then you get neither.
Time: Put your time in. Go to class regularly, stay after class, and take advantage of open mats. Check your ego, and train with people that are better than you every opportunity you get. You'll be surprised how much you'll learn from them, even if they don't say a word. First step is showing up.
I hope you found something of interest in this article. See you on the mats and roll on!