The Puppiness Project – When Learning Something New, Break it into Small Pieces

Gretchen Rubin wrote in The Happiness Project about the year she spent “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy.” The Puppiness Project is my attempt to learn the same from Honey, my Golden Retriever.
Golden Retriever Puppy at the Water's Edge
Well if you just want me to get my toes wet,
I guess I can do that.

When Honey gets “stuck” while learning something new, it’s usually because I leaped ahead too far–I didn’t break the training into small enough pieces.

Right now, Honey’s learning to “high five.” I started by rewarding her for shifting her weight, slowly worked up to a treat for lifting her paw, and am just now getting her to lift her paw higher and higher. I’ve had to be patient and work slowly because Honey was definitely more used to using her mouth than her paws.

Or how about learning to swim? We worked so slowly on swimming, that Honey never even got her ears wet despite working all last summer.

I’m not always never the perfect trainer. Sometimes I go too quickly with Honey and she lets me know. She sits down. She scratches her neck (Honey-speak for “I’m confused. What do you want from me?” And I think I’m getting better at remembering this with her.

Unfortunately, I’m not as good at remembering it for myself.

Golden Retriever Puppy in Water

You call this slow? I thought I'd be 8 years old before we had to go this deep!

For me, the equivalent to learning “high five” or how to swim is dealing with the technical side of blogging.

After losing my email subscribers upon moving to a hosted site, I have yet to find a widget that allows people to easily subscribe by email without messing up other code on the blog. I still haven’t created “pretty permalinks” for my pages. And the news that I have to back up my blog and install a new version of WordPress has put me into quite a tizzy. (Yeah, I know I’ve done it before but I’m not convinced what I did would ever allow me to reclaim my files if they got lost.)

I think it’s time for me to sit down and scratch my neck. And then break a task into bite-sized pieces.

Today after work, I’m going to register for server space to save my blog backups.

Then, after sitting down and scratching my neck for a little while (or making dinner), I’ll load a plugin to do automatic back ups.

Maybe I’ll scratch my neck again. Or toss in a load of laundry. Or kill time on Facebook. Than I’ll test the plugin and make sure the backup works.

Then I’ll scratch my neck again. Wash a few dishes. And come back to update WordPress.

Doesn’t that sound a lot easier than figuring out how to backup my files (in one fell swoop)?

Oh, and if you hear screams coming from the eastern side of North America, it’s just me. Ignore it.

Update (January 3, 2011; 6:33 a.m.): I just updated WordPress after backing up and lived to tell about it. I installed the WordPress plugin Automatic WordPress Backup v2.0 which allows you to set up regular backups to an Amazon storage account (

When I signed up for my storage account at Amazon, I nearly plotzed. I didn’t understand a single word on the entire page. But I took a leap of faith and decided to continue on and assume it would all work out. The plugin developer had a very easy tutorial (although a little fast for some of us non-geeks) that walked me through the process. It worked exactly as they predicted and now I don’t have to worry about doing back ups ever again. It will happen behind the scenes every day.

You can find the tutorial at If you would like to try this, I’m happy to provide any non-geek help. Email my gmail account at somethingwagging.

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  1. LOL. I am just as miserable at the technical side of things as well. I’ve thought of moving to my own space for a little while but the idea makes me shiver in fear. I have no idea where to begin or how to go about it. Also, just reading all of this backing up and plugging in you are about to commence makes me want to hide under my blanket. Perhaps your baby step method would help me get over my fears?

    Good luck! I hope it all goes smooth!

    • I’ll let you know if the baby step method works once I try it.

      Sometimes when I’m really discouraged I write a list of all the crazy techie things I’ve done that I didn’t know how to do when I first started this blog. I’m still pretty ignorant but I’m doing all kinds of stuff I had never heard of a year ago.

      Good thing Honey has better self esteem than I have cuz she’d have trouble holding a pencil to make a similar list.

  2. If you manage to do all that, could you share how you did it? I’m getting ready to do the same thing and when we started hearing about backing up the blog, I got completely lost! I will cross my fingers for you that it goes well!

    • Gee, I thought Blogger did all that for you.

      Good or bad, I’m sure you’ll hear about it here. Thanks for the well wishes.

  3. the picture of her wading into the water made me giggle out loud!! fantastic!