The aim of being a professional is to be excellent by distinguishing yourself from the field. In order to do that, one must learn the techniques, bounded rules and customs in the trade. A runner has to learn to listen to the shot that marks the start of the race and the quickest time to respond. This lies in his/her starting position which is a standard in all races. In running, techniques on how to position your feet while running is critically important as well in order not to tire out so easily. A runner who masters all this may be on his/her way of being a professional and award-winning runner.
Yet, keeping to the topic of sports, what about Olympic sports such as ice-skating? The same reasoning applies. The aspirant must learn the techniques. For an average award-winning ice-skater, he/she has probably seen many professional executions of ice-skating. The difficult matter is in seeing and hearing. Whether ice-skating, singing or other trades, one will indirectly be influenced by certain works or techniques. For instance, in the music industry, the famous award-acclaimed and popular Faye Wong has been criticized as copying the style of "The Cranberries". Not that it matters. She's making a lot of money... Still, therein lies the point I am trying to bring across. Faye Wong may have made it big, but many other people haven't, as they're deemed to be repetitive and copy-cats.
Yet, all is not lost, for in an ironic twist, people do like to see the same things. As one of my friends wisely said, "You can be conventional in unconventional ways."
This is the trick that one must master in order to distinguish one-self. Coupled that with good marketing skills and contacts and you've got it made.
The other dilemma of professionals is how to sustain this unconventional way. Creativity, to be precise. After learning all the techniques, one is apt to feel bound and restrained by them. The prospect of haphazardness and to break free may be inherent in them, but they are bounded by rules. This leads to a repressed feeling. Over time, this suppression will leave them sapped of their creative energies. One of the dangers for which a creative professional must look out for.
When this happens, take a break. There's no need to seek creativity or mental stimulation. When it comes, it comes. I've seen some works produced under forced stimulation and they were disastrous. Just do the things that you enjoy doing. Be happy. Happiness helps to relieve spirits and rejuvenate worn-out batteries.
By the way, in case you're thinking this only applies to sports and entertainment, it applies to other modes of businesses as well. The Japanese are famous for inventions derived from previous innovations and their economy has improved, though there have been some 'hiccups' recently. Copy an old idea with a twist seems to be their mantra.
Chief Executive Officers and entrepreneurs have to be creative as well, as they are people acting on and refining their visions. Bill Gates wanted a computer in every home and Orin Smith wanted a coffee culture in all countries. Microsoft and Starbucks started from visions and their results tell all.
On this note, let me leave you with this- Balance between your creative energies and the norms.