Blade Caddy: Always have sharp tools. They cut clean, even against the grain if you are careful. They are also safer to use than dull ones, because you exert more force and that is when things start to slip and slide and bite you. So, learn how to sharpen properly first.
Use woods that are easy to carve so that you can learn the basic techniques of carving without having to fight the material, that would be Basswood.
Get to know the mechanics of wood. Understand grain and how it can help you or fight you.