6 Unusual Things I Learned From Hula Hooping

Headshot of James Altucher, Entrepreneur, best selling author, podcaster, Angel Investor, hula hooping dad

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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!”

  1. 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.
  2. 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 couldn’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.

  1. 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.

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  • Guest

    I disagree with the below poster. Your blog rules

  • Mark

    I effin’ love this blog

  • Wholahoopknew.

  • James this is such a full of life post. I believe hula hoop is on of the best things which you helped you daughters learn. And thankfully with what seemed very difficult at first turned into something easy and cool, loved the Josie’s talk at Happy Hour and her wonderful performance at stage.

    So do you always feel good being a different father? And what’s next?

  • One of my favorite posts.  Granted I have several, but this one is up there.  Bravo.

  • pjc

    So how can you look at stories like this and still think you’re a bad father.

    Those kids, they’re whole life, they’ll know how to hula hoop. And whenever they do it, they’ll think of you. Probably 50 years from now, your daughters will be hula-hoping with your grandchildren and telling them stories of their crazy imp of a granddad who hired a hula-hoop instructor. Awesome. 

  • man, that’s freaking awesome. hula hooping is like 50000000 times more exciting than being the vice president.

  • hula hoop~ing is pure love, connecting with the circle, complete joy and meditation.
    an Art when performed magically>. thankYou for sharing all these videos.

  • Mahesh

    Hi James,
    good to be back reading your blogs( I was in India). I need to catchup with older posts.

    • OT

      They don’t have Internet in India?

  • I am in complete agreement with you on can’t.People say “I can’t”sing,dance,hula hoop or whatever when they haven’t even tried.Fear of failure is a major reason.I tell people I fail more than most people because I try more than most people.I can and do many things.there are things I can’t do but by trying I know the difference.

    • Anonymous

      My Mum always used to say to me “can’t means won’t”

  • Cute videos of your daughter. I loved the “this ol’ pair of jeans”, it delivered.

    I can relate to needing a teacher, I think that is so true. In the past I’ve  thought well I’m bright enough I can learn this or that on my own…..wrong. I need that person/teacher telling me what they can see that I cant. 

    Lastly, I am buying a hula-hoop tomorrow. 

    “So you can pray, dance, exercise, do yoga, and listen to music all at the same time while you hula hoop.”

    What could be better?

  • What’s the difference in body language between yoga and davening.  

    • James Altucher

      In davening you’re always moving. In yoga (depending on the type of yoga) you are mostly not moving.

    • In davening you are always moving. In yoga you are barely moving. (depending on the yoga). In ashtanga yoga, for instance (and ashtangis feel free to correct me), you get into a pose and then the hard part begins; staying in that pose while you learn to breathe.

  • Sooz

    ” 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.”(J.Altucher)
    Huge grin. Fools they are, CNBC, for not airing that segment.

    Why was it, while viwing first video of Lottie, that I imagined something going horribly wrong? Maybe because of Bionic,5’5″, boy doing a flip  over innocent spectators.:)) Such grace she has and yet all I could picture is the hoop taking out the crowd sitting there in awe of the show .

    encore..encore!! Congrats on winning the contest!

    • Sooz

      thanks.J.A., for letting me think outside the hoop..:)) and sticking beside me if/when someting goes wrong.

      Nobody will ever know unless they try.

  • Moshkosh

    James sonds like a pretty damn good father to me.  Bravo!

  • shq

    you’re right i wasn’t disappointed at all with the video (fatboy slim)
    i was exactly like the curious cows looking at her while she was doing her thing!

    amazing, unbelievable, and thanks for another great piece of article.. what seems hard is sometimes very easy indeed, if one knows how to do it, which having a great teacher always help! you rock!

  • Anonymous

    I just bought a Rubik’s Cube as a result of this post.
    I am going to nail that thing down.
    Never managed as a kid – but I am a goddam math genius – how hard can it be?

    • It’s very hard to figure out on your own. There’s about 5 easy tricks. If you know them you can bring you time on Rubik’s Cube to under 2 minutes no problem.

  • JH

    James, your daughter is adorable, and very talented. I rate this post 4 stars because of her.

    You’re a good dad.

  • Watching you sitting there in the background showing an amazing amount of confidence in your daughter is nothing short of AWESOME! She does a great job and what a great experience for her. Really fun to read about…thanks.

    • Yeah, it was a great experience. I was very proud but more than that I was just happy she was happy.

  • Kevin M

    Way to go Josie! Also, I fully agree with A). There have been several times in my career I’ve dreaded doing something (usually b/c it was new to me) but it ended up being rather easy.

  • This post was smiles through and through, was very good. Great work combining tap and hula-ing, Josie!

    I’d love some additional thoughts on your #2: How do you find teachers? My partner-in-crime and I had a discussion the other day that we really need a third person to mentor us. We’re very strong technically but really are weak on getting a product in front of people (and I guess even figuring out exactly what the product needs).

    It seems you’ve always found teachers when you need them. It’s very fortunate. I believe that I’m just not keeping my eyes open correctly. Any advice?

    • Go for quantity over quality. Show everyone your product, offer equity, do whatever you can to get someone involved who has done before exactly what you need to do. Someone will respond.

  • The video of your daughter is amazing. 

    This post brings me back to the time I wanted to be in the circus. It wasn’t as a child. I learned to spin fire poi and fly trapeze. I knew that I wouldn’t ever be in the circus. How can a single mom join the circus? But I did perform both of those in a little mini-circus my trapeze club put on once a year. And my son juggled while on stilts for it. That was one of the greatest mom/son moments in my life. 

  • Great talent show video of Josie.  Fun to watch!

  • LOL, whatever, whatever, at no point do you actually mention that Lisa Lottie the circus trained hula hoop teacher is actually hot, and to be honest I’d take up a girlie hobby with a teacher like that.

  • Ray

    En route to earning degrees in math and chemistry, I also learned how to juggle 5 balls, solve Rubik’s cube, ride a unicycle, and once recited pi to 1000 digits from memory (say what you will about pi! I had fun.). I never tried hula hooping, but I’m sure I could learn.
    I can definitely say that all these things taught me much more about the learning process than 5 years of college. Am I a genius? I don’t think so. I’ve just learned that you have to try and fail a few times before you can improve at anything.EVERYONE says that they can’t juggle. What they should be saying is, they were never properly shown how to juggle.I don’t know how to fly an airplane, but, I also never tried learning how, either. How can you know you’re incapable of doing something that you’ve never tried?I just love that “Aha!” moment when learning something. After unicycling for 5 years, I still laugh every time I learn a new move, not only because doing anything on a unicycle is humorous (riding one-footed in a circle? riding with my stomach lying on the seat? come on, that’s ridiculous), but because of just how fun it is to learn something like that.The next challenge is to find something I like learning about, that someone will pay me to do.

    • All good points. Again , it’s the “can’t” mentality that stops most people, not the inability to learn.

      • After 25 years of growing/leading/developing people as a “boss”, I believe more than ever that almost anyone can learn almost anything.

  • Billy-bob

    Josies’ got talent!

    • Thanks. I just told her, though- no more tap dancing unless she starts practicing outside of class, watching youtube videos, and even movies featuring tap dancing. She has to show some passion now to get great.

  • Billy-bob

    Josies’ got talent!

  • Thanks, I needed that -> “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.”

  • Thanks, I needed that -> “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.”

  • Michael3223

    do they know how Claudia contracted Lyme disease?  Was she hiking in the woods? Or you live where there are a lot of deer?
    Great fat boy slim btw…thanks..

    • We live in an area with a ton of deer. And we live right by the Hudson River. So there’s big stretches of area where you can walk around right near where deer were just running. Almost everyone in this town gets Lyme at some point. I’m the only adult I know who has not gotten it. I think tics (and mosquitoes, i’ve noticed) don’t like the smell of me.

      • Michael3223

        There are a lot of deer in my mom’s yard and she feeds them – I better tell her to cool it. Guy on NPR was blaming it for the large number of CFS cases. Somebody said Michael J Fox’s trouble may have started with Lyme? Wear socks! Good luck…

  • wsc

    very cool on many different levels, james.  like the shot of you beaming in the background on the fbn footage.

  • Ccity123

    love the fatboy slim video…great song and video and how they go together…i’ve watched it over 25 times…makes me feel good…the power of art and life…everyone i show it to likes it also…thanks very much for sharing

  • Longwj

    Like Mark said F in fantastic

  • Lara Eastburn

    Join our hooping community here: we’d love to have you!  http://hooping.org

  • The Great Stephen Dapper

    My sis was offered Adjunct Professorship at UNC Chapel Hill to teach Hula Hooping, perhaps she can make video similar to last one, suppose she’ll need help with audio track though, that’s a great tune, who might that be laying down rhyming lyrics?

  • Puzzled

    Davening just means praying.  The motion you’re describing is called shuckeling.

  • Toni Covello

    Who knew hula-hooping could be so inspiring? Thank you for the delightful article. My mission today is to track down some good hula-hoops for my kids and me so we can have some good laughs, learn a new skill, and start making more fun memories! :-)

  • Thanks to you I just spent an hour on YouTube convincing myself to learn hooping.  Just great… dishes in the sink still aren’t done and its all your fault!!!!

    Great blog by the way… who really wants to do dishes anyway. ;)

  • I liked this a lot. Also, even though I’m a gun toting sometimes masculine guy etc, I love hooping. Its a great activity, and its role as a bonding tool with your kids is great.

  • Daryl Davis


  • Daryl Davis


  • Bilal Ahmad

    no i didn’t disappointed after watches all of above its kind ov new thougt to me

  • White Sun Hoops
  • David Horwitz

    wanted to say again how much enjoyment i’ve gotten from the fatboy slim music video…just great…thanks very much for posting it!

  • Tap/dancer :)

    Wow awesome article! I’ve been doing tap dancing for a few years now and if only I can incorporate hula hoopin with it! Going to buy a hula hoop tomorow and practice till I drop!

  • Sorry, hoola hooping is beneath my dignified manner. I prefer the chicken dance.

  • Aurose

    My heart is over-joyed by this story! As a hooper myself, I have to say you’ve done a wonderful thing hiring an instructor for your daughters! You’ve introduced to them a wildly enlightening path at a very young age. If they keep it up they’re bound to meet tons of great influences and live positive and fulfilling lives! Even if they eventually put it down, nothing can undo the glimpse you’ve given them at their own potential. :) Now they know early on what it took so many of us so long to figure out, that “what seems hard is sometimes [many times–most of the time, even] really easy.” The sky is the limit!