If you feel intimidated by the Characteristic studies try this:
-pick one of the characteristic studies to play -- if one looks easier to you than another, pick the easy one
-take a look at the first 8 bars. Play them the best you can, slowly.
-Identify the attributes that make the first 8 bars hard for you (flexibility issue, range, fingering, ornamentation, etc.)
-go back and find the exercises in the earlier part of the book that address the problems you've identified above and practice them
-continue with next 8 bars of the study
You'll eventually get to the end of the study. Go back and start trying to play it as a piece of music, with dynamics, breathing, phrasing etc.
Trying to get your first one together so that you can just stumble through it once may take a long time, but that's okay....you cannot lose with this approach, you will improve....