How do you make your pictures look so good?

Looking through the brilliant pics in the Weekly Critique Thread has really inspired me. I've been trying to replicate the style of the images but the pictures don't turn out that great.
So, does the wise Verge community have any technique/editing skills they can share so that amateurs like me can improve their pictures? Thanks!
(Not sure if this is relevant or not but I use an Olympus X-Z1 point and shoot-I want to develop some skills before moving on to a DSLR/Micro four-third.)
Also, I was wondering how you achieve the calm and serene look in the pictures on this website via Aperture/Photoshop. (I think it has something to do with dialling down the contrast but I'm not sure if I'm correct.)