Sitting at the local diner this AM with my coffee, pocket knife, and a small piece of Basswood, the thought came to me. Whittling is a fun pass time, but it still needs to be precise. Each knife cut must mean something, have a purpose, and be planned. Each cut should be "premeditated". And I mean "premeditated" on several levels. First and perhaps foremost you must recognize where the knife blade might go if it goes "wrong". Move your fingers out of the way. Readjust your grip on the piece of wood so that if something goes wrong your fingers are out of the way. Plan for the proper depth of cut, the proper angle of the cut, and where to start and end the cut. Now, plan on where to place the knife blade to begin the cut. Determine how much pressure you need to apply to the knife to make the desired knife cut. Finally make the knife cut. A good practice to follow is to make small knife cuts. If you are carving something that is somewhat symmetrical (sides of the nose) plan on making the same knife cut opposing (on the other side) the first one.
This all sounds like a lot of effort for something that is supposed to be fun, but it should become second nature with practice. And it is fun.