Students in creative disciplines sometimes worry that they might lose their personal style if they allow themselves to be influenced by teachers, practitioners, or other students. They reason that imitation is the enemy of innovation. They believe that if the unique talent they need isn’t there already, it never will be.

There’s a kernel of truth to this. But only a kernel. Because the way we actually learn is by standing on the shoulders of others. We acquire skills by watching more advanced practitioners do their work, eventually growing strong enough to support the weight of newer practitioners.

To develop a strong ...

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