I am new to film photography (but not to photography in general). I am in the process of reading "The Negative" and while I understand it at a general level, I would not profess to understand it to the point where I could effectively put it into practice (especially as I have just once again taken up film). My question is this - knowing what you know now (as an experienced film shooter), what would you recommend to a beginner who wants to learn as much as he can, but is a bit overwhelmed by the concept and methodologies involved with film testing, N, N+1, etc.

On one hand, I'd like to take the approach that some on this forum seem to take, which is to shoot at box speed and meter for the darkest shadows in which you want to have detail rendered. Develop normally and if there is still insufficient shadows, drop film speed by a third. Rinse and repeat. I certainly see the logic to this and would be capable of doing this while I am learning more advanced concepts, but I also don't want to burn a lot of film learning habits that have to be un-learned, or worse, producing results that I can't explain and therefore can't reproduce consistently.