Dog Bites Man, Can you Focus?


Dog Bites Man, Can you Focus?

I blasted through a headline over at concerning parking at Trader Joe’s. It was, I thought, a ‘dog bites man’ story. After all, we all know that every Trader Joe’s is a small store with a large clientele, and a correspondingly small parking footprint. You know that if you drive to Trader Joe’s, you have a parking issue. My first response was ‘meh’.

Suddenly, I was bombarded by a dozen emails from people horrified about the article. I figured I had better go back and actually read it. Boy, was I surprised.

Seems an automotive reporter for the LA Times did a deep dive into Hollywood Trader Joe’s parking issues and did something few of us ever do, he actually read the 4,000-word terms of service document attached to the parking app that is required if you wish to park at this particular venue. (Note: Trader Joe’s had nothing to do with the parking, they are simply a tenant in the building.)

Basically, the terms of service give the app creator the right to collect tons of information about you and then to provide (read that: sell) that information to whomever they like. This came as a surprise to those of us who download parking apps all the time.

Let’s face it. We know that Amazon et al. collect our data on a daily basis. How many times have you bought a plane ticket to Florida then been faced with weeks of ads for Disney world and Orlando hotels? We know that happens and acknowledge it. But information about our parking? Is that a step too far?

I was even more surprised to learn that I use the app to park at my doctor’s office. She is a specialist, and it would take very little research to understand what her specialty is and then to learn just what I am doing there every few months. I wonder how that conflicts with HIPPA rules. My health is my business, and certainly no one else’s.

Just what does this mean to our industry? Sure, an app that enables me to enter and leave a garage seamlessly and to pay automatically is great. And I laud it. But one that allows someone, anyone, to collect data about me and then provide it to a third party is problematic at best. I wonder if the landlord at the Hollywood Trader Joe’s knows that data can be collected and (shudder) sold. Is that building owner getting a piece of the action? Is the operator?

This is going to take more research and a swim in some murky waters. Stay tuned. I have some pretty powerful folks on the case.

SWPTA’s annual meeting was a fantastic event. There was something for everyone, and it was a great place to talk about parking. But I glanced over at the fellow sitting at the next table and he was playing a game on his phone. Granted, he wasn’t a parking pro, he was the head of a county in a nearby state, and yes, he was there to hopefully make his myriad parking issues go away. But he wasn’t focused.

I don’t really blame him; I blame the environment he brought with him. When Cindy Campbell spoke, there wasn’t a person in the room that didn’t focus like a laser beam on her. She was articulate, she was engaging, she brought her topic right home to the people sitting in the room. She changed that environment and people listened.

Everywhere we go, we take our environment with us. We have our iPad, our smart phone, and our laptop, and they consume us hour by hour, day by day. It becomes impossible to focus on the task at hand.

When Michelangelo was asked by the Pope to fix the architecturally poor ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, at first, he couldn’t do it. He had no focus. Then he read the Bible about the creation and his focus was clear. He spent four years working on the ceiling. He had his focus and kept it. No distractions.

How many of us can say we are clear in our focus? Many of us, women particularly, talk about multi-tasking. They work on many things at once. Some are even proud of the fact that they can be on a Zoom call, check email, review a spread sheet, and complete a report, all at the same time.

(At this moment, I glanced down at my mail icon, saw there was mail waiting, and went to look at it. Now, I’m not sure where I left off.)

I doubt that a multi tasker can do as good a job as someone who focuses on one task and truly is involved in it.

I think instantaneous news, social media, email, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and their ilk have numbed us to the point that we simply cannot focus, no matter how important the task at hand. To get someone’s attention takes more and more effort. You are fighting big media, Silicon Valley, and all the tech an iPhone and Android can throw at you.

When I speak before a group, I attempt to get its focus with two things. First, I ask them to take their phones and turn them face down on the table. Then I ask a question that requires a ‘shout out answer.’ I walk around the room and force people to follow me with their eyes. I’m not always successful. Once, I saw a fellow working on this cell phone. I stood directly in front of him and stopped talking. The room was silent for a full minute before he looked up. Even then he didn’t understand the problem.

We have not only lost our ability to focus, but we have lost our understanding of just what focus is. Trust me, it’s not found on your phone or computer. It’s the ability to maintain a subject in our minds to the exclusion of all else. At least for a period of time. Michaelangelo was able to do it for four years. Can you do it for four minutes?


Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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