0. Photography is about tradeoffs. For every gain, there is at least one sacrifice, with few exceptions.
1. Learn, really learn how your camera works and how to use it. Experiment with the different settings. Practice, practice, practice.
2. Learn how to get the right exposure and white balance when you shoot the picture. Learn how to understand and interpret what you see in your camera's viewfinder. Practice, practice, practice.
3. Shoot lots and lots of pictures. It costs nothing. Find a way that makes this possible (and easy).
4. Don't show the bad ones. Be prepared to lose a few. Learn how to cull out your work. Be ready to discard more than you keep. Each mistake is a lesson for the future.
5. Learn how to finish a picture. You're only halfway there when it leaves the camera.
6. Learn how to see with your camera the same way that you see with your eyes. Look for new viewpoints and angles. Be willing to play and experiment.
7. Don't waste your time on B.S. that gets in the way of your photography. Don't get lost in quibbles and bits. There will be no extra points awarded for degree of difficulty.
8. Learn how to conquer the fears that hold you back. Free your mind. There are no rules. Don't worry about the conventional wisdom. Don't worry about being "Photographically Correct."
9. Never, ever forget that the goal of this exercise is making pictures.