6 Things I Learned from Hula Hooping.

Via elephantjournal.com
on Sep 2, 2011
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I was living on my own after ten years of marriage and my kids were visiting me every two weeks I didn’t know what to do with them. I didn’t have a door on my bathroom. I had girl problems. I had money problems. And now I had two tiny people who I needed to entertain.

If you think about it superficially, what does a 40 year old man have in common with a 12 year old girl and a 9 year old girl. What? Are we friends or something?

But they were my kids and I loved them and I wanted them to love me back. I also didn’t want their lives to be in too much shock over the separation of their parents. Time Magazine does its annual cover story on “Divorce Ruins the Lives of Kids” and now my kids were going to be divorced kids. “I don’t want to be one of those“, one of them was crying when we first told them.

Kids don’t deserve the burden that’s thrust on them. They have no control over their lives at all. They have no control over where they will live. They don’t know how to take care of themselves so they often get sick in the germ factories at the schools. Most kids hate school and are bored out of their minds sitting down from nine to three listening to boring teachers talk boring topics. Kids should run around and sweat and climb trees.

Plus kids are often cruel to each other. My oldest daughter was having a problem at the time with being ostracized at the school she was attending. It was very hard for her and broke my heart. Having been cruel at points in my life, I saw very clearly what they were doing to her. On top of it their parents were getting divorced. I was so sad for the both of them.

So I did the only thing I knew to do with them. I overbooked them. They would arrive and we would eat out dinner at a nice place, then play ping pong, then go to a movie, then next day: bowling, ping pong, basketball, swimming, ice skating, magic show, Holocaust museum (they HATED that), and hula hoop lessons. They were out of breath, out of mind, by the time they left to go to their home. My old home.

I found a woman who performed with a circus. I hired her for almost no money to come over and teach my kids all sorts of hula hoop tricks. “Why don’t you join in?” she said to me.

“I can’t do that,” I said. Maybe something homophobic in me. Don’t only girls hula hoop? Plus, every time I tried it it seemed scientifically impossible. I would move my whole body in a circle to keep up with the hula hoop, I would to spin as fast as possible, and it would immediately fall down. Whatever. Hula hooping is for girls.

“Sure you can,” she said, and she had a hula hoop for me. So I took lessons. And by the end of the first lesson I was hula hooping and my kids were doing all sorts of tricks.

But I did learn 6 Valuable Things From Hula Hooping

A) What seems hard is sometimes very easy. Sometimes you just need to know the right trick and something that you previously thought was not just hard but IMPOSSIBLE becomes easy. But everyone else still thinks it’s hard. So it’s like you’re doing a miracle whenever you show people. One time CNBC asked me to say something for one of their promos. I said, “Can I do it while hula hooping.” They said, “sure.” So I did it. Afterwards they were like, “Oh my god, how the hell did you do that?” Sadly they didn’t air it. I was in a tie, hula hooping, saying something about how capitalism was going to rule the free world and maybe it didn’t quite all fit together.

A lot of people say “I can’t do it” through their whole lives. I bet 95% of the things that “can’t” is applied to is actually very easy. In fact, I know this statistic to be true. I see “can’t” from people every day. When you say “can’t” look at the deeper fears why you might not want to do something. Or why you think you aren’t good enough. Or why you think you don’t deserve the magic.

B) You need a teacher. For everything I want to get better at, I get a teacher or mentor. Without a teacher I never would’ve learned the tricks to hula hoop. Without a teacher, I never would’ve gotten better at chess or poker. I had a good teacher on trading. I wish I had had someone show me the ropes on entrepreneurship. Instead I had to learn these rules the hard way. Through bitter tears and a lot of failure.

But you can get virtual teachers as well. The Internet is a blessing. It removes even more reasons for “can’t”. Where soon going to collectively run out of excuses for everything.

C) The less movement the better. I initially thought I had to move my body as fast as possible in a complete circle. But really it’s just moving your pelvic area forward and back about a half inch in either direction. You do it in sync with the hula hoop and you can go forever. It’s really that simple. Watch the video above to see how minimally Lisa Lottie actually moves when she’s hula hooping with five different hula hoops at the 3:22 point in the video. When my kids hula hoop it almost looks like they are not moving at all. I learned this trick once when raising money for a company. If it’s hard, it means it’s not going to happen. When you have the right company, it’s easy. Same for getting acquired. If it’s too difficult, then you are either in the wrong business or you need to build more. And in writing, the less words, the better.

When people show me an idea for a business, if lots of things have to conspire together, then it’s an automatic “no”. An example “major conspiracy”: they need a million users and need everyone simultaneously to be using a geo-locating-mobile dating app for it to be effective. “NO!”

D) Technology makes things better. The teacher I hired for the kids made all three of us our own hula hoops. She filled them with water and they were thicker than the average hoop in the store. When I was a kid you couldn’t buy water-filled hula hoops. But technology improves. The water makes it easier to get in sync with the hula hoop as you are moving back and forth. Almost everything in life can be improved with a little more thought and effort.

E) Being different has its rewards. The first time Josie visited me when I was staying in the Chelsea Hotel I told her to bring her hula hoop. My friend Cody had his TV show, “Happy Hour” on the Fox Business Network. Josie was going through a rough time with her friends at school. I arranged for her to go on the show and give stock tips while hula hooping. She was so excited and so happy afterwards. Here’s a link to it. She called her little sister and coudldn’t stop talking about it. I dream the time when they are in their fifties and on the phone talking about me. “Ugh, your turn to take change dad’s bedpan again.” That’s what I was thinking then. It was the first time I ever saw them on the phone with each other.

Another time, she was performing at a fair. While all her friends competed against each other in the singing category she practically invented her own category. She tap danced while hula hooping. Nobody else did that. She won an award. I was very proud of her because towards the end, like any good performer, she took control of the audience, she started clapping while tapping and hula hooping and everyone in the audience started clapping with her. She was fearless and fierce.

Here’s the video:


F) It feels good. When Orthodox Jews pray they do what’s called davening. If you’ve ever seen a group of them do it you know what I mean: it looks weird. They are moving all over the place. The idea is that every part of your body is praying to God. Hula hooping is like that. It feels like every part of your body is moving in this rhythmic, dancing way. And it’s not bad exercise either. In the video at top, Lisa Lottle is doing some yoga moves while hula hooping. So you can pray, dance, exercise, do yoga, and listen to music all at the same time while you hula hoop.

I finally stopped overbooking my kids. It was too tiring for everyone. They didn’t want to do it. And I was getting sick from too many magic shows, too much falling on ice. I’d had enough. I had just spent the week drinking and chasing and it was just as well if they wanted to stay inside and play monopoly. I still loved them. Hopefully, they still loved me.

One more video. I promise you won’t be disappointed if you watch it.

Fatboy Slim crowdsourced the making of a video for his song “This Ol’ Pair of Jeans”. Some girl submitted this video:

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2 Responses to “6 Things I Learned from Hula Hooping.”

  1. Betty says:

    Hi james
    I will be the first to comment. Hi James – a friend sent me this link about your hooping experience. I own a hoop fitness company and since 1998 have been applying basic body mechanics, yoga alignment and sport training into my programs with safely weighted hoops. So I feel compelled to correct your information on water hoops!
    Simple physicals will show that any moving mass within a vortex or centrifuge will create an uneven spin. – The water in a hoop actually groups up at 1 point inside the arc every 2-3 rotations (given the hoops speed). This means that the hoop will be much heavier at 1 point ever few rotations. Because of this, and my 11 years studying the body in motion with and without the hoop, this means that the hooper will never connect to the spin. The body should move laterally and linearly. hips should move back to front & side to side. belly should pump into the hoop. There should be no mini circles or rotation on the discs. SO – a water hoop will prevent the person from feeling a true lateral spin of the hoop, thus making it harder to move in synch with the hoop. Also, most hoopers use the body as a static axis to be able to execute cool tricks. Because they dont spend much time in the core, I actually see them thrust from their lower back, with their ribs way off set from their hips. This is in part due to the wrong sized hoops. –
    Most hoopers like to to just tricks. They use a 3/4" PVC pipe for this. this would be great for them, except that most adults learning to hoop and wanting to use the hoop to strengthen their core, need a heavier hoop. Again, simple physics – it is easier to throw a rock than a feather. the body will need to torque itself just to generate enough thrust to keep a light weight hoop spinning. This is not good. Just like skis, the hoops' size & weight need to be proportionate to the persons height & weight. In my medical research & experience teaching, If you are over 100 lbs, your body will never move efficiently in a light weight hoop. Same goes for a hoop that is too large. It will move too slowly, thus, making your efforts and movements way too hard and dangerous.
    In any sport there is a right & wrong way to move. And even the novice knows, you are only as good as your gear. Be it a bike, running shoes or golf club. I designed a safely weighted hoop that adjusts 2 sizes in 1. The kid size fits kids from 8yrs-11lbs. The adult size fits people from 120-240 lbs. It also flexes. This means that it hugs the body, and acts as a shock absorber, staying in a level spin, even through one's rigid movements.
    I also have 3 programs for physical therapy, weight loss, and fun dance. I teach to beginners, top athletes & also retrain hoop teachers and performers who;ve been hooping the wrong way with the wrong size & weighted hoop. They comment that the information on my dvd and in my trainings has healing their lower pain, helped them lose 10 pounds and mostly, given them a very strong core. I would love to send you one of my hoops & dvds if you are interested in hooping and using the body with force, fluidity and fun. Thanks for the chance to educate and inspire.
    Betty Hoops 4X Guinness Book World Record Holder in speed & distance Hoop running http://www.bettyhoops.com

  2. Patricia says:

    Hi Betty! This is interesting. I learned how to hoop using a large hoop with rice inside and it never seemed to bother me while I was learning. I was able to learn quickly too, although I'm not sure how much to attribute that to a large hoop and adequate enough coordination. What exactly do you mean by the "hooper will never connect to the spin" with a water hoop? I've always thought the physics of hooping was fascinating.