A long time ago a wise man said something... I don't remember exactly, but it went something like, "Pay attention to which way the horses are running. At least you'll be facing the right direction in the saddle."
I think he meant that you could do your own thing, but be aware of the rest of the world so you don't get trampled. If you are at least in the saddle your doing better, but to really be in the race you need to face the right direction.
I would add to be enough a student of history to see the trends and try to get in ahead of them. There really is a predictable 40 year cycle... or 80 year cycle that keeps repeating. We're swinging back and forth repeating the same cycle. So pay attention. You can swing on that pendulum or get whacked by it.
I've recommended Roy Williams book; Pendulum, and I'm sure I will again. He uses a lot of examples that have to do with music and how a nations self image is reflected in the music they decide will be popular.
You thought that was just good music? Well, it is, but it's good music that resonates with the listener... at that time... in that mood . If they are in a different mood, they'll choose someone else's music.
So pay attention. Read the news and watch whats going on around you. Look past the manufactured news stories and see what gets attention and why. Read Roy's book. If you see what was going on 80 or so years ago repeating itself, at least you have a roadmap for what's coming next.
One of the things that comes up a lot is how an innovator stands up to the status quo and makes a name for himself (...or herself) and soon everyone is imitating their style. It gets so bad that the people piling on don't even know what they are imitating. The audience gets tired of all the sameness. Then someone else is standing in the road saying, "This is crap! Lets do something else!" and when they get successful it starts ovar again.
This post is getting long. I'm trying to be more concise. I'll give the timeline as I remember it next week.