What’s Inside Your Hula Hoop?

﷯Advice on how to handle﷯ the things only you control.

Did you go to the AHR Show in Las Vegas? Thanks so much to PHC News and Bradford White for hosting my presentation. My topic was making Business UN-Complicated, and we had a blast! I also participated in the Radiant Panel Association-sponsored panel on Selling Hydronics, hosted by my son, Max Rohr, manager of REHAU Academy. What a proud mama moment! And, I learned so much from my sales-savvy, co-panelists, Wes Sisco of Uponor and Dave Holdorf of Taco.  

This year, AHR was a family affair, as I also hung out with Max, and my husband Hot Rod, training and education manager at Caleffi North America. It was great to cruise the show and check out the booths and new products. There were more than 60,000 people enjoying the AHR show, and it seems like we are friends with most of them.  
Keep in mind that the AHR show was about one week into the new U.S. presidency. Interestingly, people of wildly different opinions were, well, getting along. I smiled as I saw two friends, who had been in a political battle a few days earlier on Facebook, conversing politely about shared business challenges.  

Two things struck me at the show:

1. There is more that connects us than divides us.  
2. We are wasting time trying to change other people.  

An industry event gives us a chance to present new ideas, solutions, opportunities and concerns about the economic and political climate. Alas, sometimes we spend time and energy trying to change the other guy. Now, people can change. You can change, but only you can do it. I can change, and only I can do it. A wise friend of mine once told me, “We only get to change what’s inside our hula hoop.”  

Throughout the show, I considered this paradox: Global change is always personal change. As Wayne Dyer said: “Until you change, nothing will change for you. Once you change, everything changes.” This thought looped through my head the next few days, which led to more awareness.  

I can’t make employees, subcontractors or partners do anything. That’s outside my hula hoop. What’s inside? I could create a business plan and mission that inspires me. When I do, and when I share that mission, I may become magnetic to people who might share my values and be intrigued by the mission. That’s what might encourage team members to show up on day one and day two. They are watching, and hoping perhaps, that I actually live my values and pursue my mission. If I initiate an honorable, compelling game, some people may want to play with me, and work with me.  

And if they don’t, I could end the relationship. That is within my hula hoop. I don’t have the right or the ability to change them, and it doesn’t make someone worth any less just because they aren’t a good fit for the path I am walking. 

Hmmm. This means I can’t make customers do anything either. I can love them, send messages in their direction, identify people who may want to listen and offer solutions to problems. But I can’t make them call me. I can’t make them buy from me.  

What is within my hula hoop? I could craft a solid marketing plan. I can maintain a spit-spot place of business and make sure my environment is clean and tidy. I can improve delivery of our products and services. I can demonstrate that I make good on my promises, and apologize — and fix it — when I get derailed.  

Of course, I can’t make my husband do anything. I can’t change Hot Rod. I tried! I finally learned this lesson, though, it took me about 20 years of married life to figure it out. How liberating to finally just let him be. You know what was the turning point for me in this holdout area of illusionary control? I didn’t want him to tell me what to do, to try and change me. That’s outside of his hula hoop, right?

I can’t change my son, either. (There’s a pattern here, right?) When your kids are little, you have to protect and care for them. Our job is to help them stay alive, provide opportunities to learn and celebrate their unique selves. Parenting involves exploring another paradox: helping your children live without you.  

I have an extensive, diverse and interesting family. You too? Unconditional love doesn’t mean allowing everyone full access to your hula hoop.  

What is within my power when it comes to my family? Being loving, kind, happy and truthful. Being supportive and appreciative. Setting boundaries when I need or want them.  

I’ve also discovered that I can’t change anyone on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I’ve gotten some grief from friends who know my political beliefs. They think that I could use my platform to share my thoughts and influence others in a positive way. However, I don’t want to use social media that way. I have not yet seen a post reply that reads: “Hey, I never thought about it that way. You are right! I’ve changed my mind.” I keep my participation on social media limited to celebrating good news, babies, adventures and delicious meals. That’s my personal approach, and I am not going to judge or de-friend you should you take a different approach.  

What’s inside my hula hoop? I am becoming more involved in local and national politics. I’ve always voted and written campaign checks. Now I’m reading, and re-reading, biographies of our founding fathers. A few favorites:

"Washington: A Life" and "Alexander Hamilton," both by Ron Chrenow

"Benjamin Franklin: An American Life," by Walter Isaacson 

I’m researching and contacting my representatives. I check out voting records at www.congress.gov/members. I contact them via letter and phone call. The contact information is at www.house.gov/representatives/ and www.senate.gov/senators/contact/ and I can contact the White House via www.whitehouse.gov/contact#page.   
There’s plenty to do within our own hula hoops. And the lovely paradoxical reality is, when you change, your relationships and circumstances change, too.  

As Jack Kemp said, “The power of one man or one woman doing the right thing for the right reason, and at the right time, is the greatest influence in our society.” Note, that I don’t agree with everything Jack Kemp says. However, I can find common ground with just about everyone if I spend some one-to-one time with him or her.  

At the AHR show, I saw peace breaking out all over. We tend to choose love over hate, generosity over greed, and acceptance over separation. At AHR, I saw this as people from all over the world discussed warm air versus hydronics, as well as global trade policies. 

Here’s a habit I am adopting: When I am tempted to try and change someone, I pause. I breathe. Then, I look inside my hula hoop. Oh, I fail often, but I am getting better. 

Thanks, Team PHC News! I love writing this column every month and sharing what I have learned about business in seminars and webinars. However, whether or not you, dear reader, act on my advice is outside of my hula hoop. I share it only in a spirit of love and no judgment. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, “Take what you need and leave the rest.” 

Ellen Rohr is president of the franchise company, ZOOM DRAIN, www.zoomdrain.com, and offers “in the trenches” insights to contractors and family business owners. Reach her at 417-753-1111 or ellen@ellenrohr.com. For free business tips, problem-solving webinars, money-making tools and lots of love, visit www.ellenrohr.com.

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