Think of any writer, artist, athlete, filmmaker, a leader that you admire, and you will notice how deeply they’ve studied the writers, artists, movie directors, and leaders of the yesteryears. It’s their understanding of what’s come before that gave them the insight, context, and perspective to establish a platform for themselves.
There’s a reason why filmmakers would spend an enormous amount of time watching and studying movies from different eras — not to copy but to figure out how to go even further. Likewise, the best Chess players study plays from the last century (and perhaps the one before) in addition to their contemporaries, not to emulate or recreate the situations but to understand how to go further.
Besides experience, having the domain knowledge is crucial in not only understanding what might work but also what might not, hence shortening that “learning” curve that might have stopped countless careers short of success. Domain knowledge is what enables the best to carve a path that’s the best for them because they can “see” further.
The more you know, the more you can achieve, provided, you’re willing to apply your knowledge.
Seth Godin always gets the last word, “Our best commercial work reminds people of what they’ve seen before. Creativity doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”