Re: Cliff Almond here.....
Thank you for the compliments...(and thanks to your teacher as well)...Your question is a broad one, and certainly not foolish at all.
There have been so many different things that have influenced me and my approach to the drums. It's a bit difficult to pick one thing that is the most important in my own progression. One thing I would say that comes to mind immediately are the basic fundamentals of the instrument that have to be reinforced constantly. In the case of the drums this would be rudiments. In my opinion you really need to have a good rudimentary concept in place to execute your ideas, and this requires some daily maintenance. Muscle memory has to be constantly updated, and i'm always surprised at how quickly my skills can disappear when i'm not keeping my hands in shape.
Another concept that I would say has helped me the most is ...as obvious as this sounds...Listening. Listening skills are CRUCIAL to becoming a better musician. It's important to understand what is going on in any piece of music when you are playing it, or when you are just listening for your own enjoyment. It's always important to know how your instrument fits into the picture of what is trying to be portrayed by the composer. Obviously, different styles have different concepts and approaches, and it's important to know what the best musical choice is for the situation. Many times we get caught up in other aspects of playing such as chops, speed, etc. and before we know it we aren't making the best musical choices for the situation. This is a concept that never ends and is always expanding. If I had to put my finger on two very important things that have helped me in playing the drums or any other instrument, it would be those two concepts, but I think even more so the concept of listening and knowing what to play and when to play it.
Hopefully that helps....