I first learned to knit when I was in college. I took a beginners class at the Local Yarn Store. We made a few squares just to learn how to knit and purl. Then, for everyone's first project we made these...
You see the teacher explained that once we made these, we were fully prepared to make socks, a sweater - anything really. If we jumped in and made these in the beginning we would never have a chance to be intimidated by anything else. Of course, there is also the fact that it's a big, chunky yarn on big needles so it goes quickly and any holes or mistakes get hidden when you felt them (there were many and yes, they did get gloriously hidden).
I can honestly say this method worked for me in a really big way. From that class onward, I've never looked at any project and thought, "Oh, that's way too complicated for me." or "I've never done this before and I'm too scared to try." I follow the directions, I make mistakes, I rip back, learn and try again. These ugly slippers are what I have to thank for that. They taught me not only how to knit and purl - but that on some level, no matter how complicated, that all knitting is just knit and purl.
Sadly, these slippers are no more as, unattractive as they were, I loved them literally to pieces.