One of the surest and finest ways I know to get better at something is to copy. Take a hero's work and break it down into chunks and learn how it is done. This is something that Austin K. Leon talks about in his book, Steal Like an Artist. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it to absolutely everyone, not just people who work in creative fields.
I did this with a Lynda.com course today, getting after two of my favorite design styles: 1920's Russian Constructivism and 1950's Swiss Style. The circles above are recreated after a famous poster made by Josef Muller Brockman for a beethoven recital.
I find that nothing can build my toolbox like doing this. I added several new Illustrator skills today and am now a much better designer than I was this morning.
We are all trying to put out exceptional, world changing work every day, so why not put in just a little effort to steal from our heroes and keep the fire alive?!
I can't remember who said it, and google isn't turning up anything, but one of my favorite sayings is, "Nothing I do is original, for I am the sum total of all that came before me."