Naturally, poking at our boundaries has the effect of pushing our limits into new spaces, prompting us to reach for things we never thought possible. For many, this is a new frontier rife with uncertainty on par with the economic atmosphere being negatively impacted by a commercial sector attempting to rethink office space around occupancy expectations that are half of what they are accustomed to. This is all a very appropriate metaphor for outer space, the great beyond.
Reflecting on this perspective lately has been quite illuminating because, as chance would have it, my parking enterprise is, at its core, a space broker. In short, I am fascinated by the new and exciting possibilities that come out of this order of thinking and have begun shifting my mental framework toward true adoption of the future so that I can play an active role in what “Tomorrowland” has to bring.
If there’s anything these past few months have taught me it’s this: As the owner and operator of one of the country’s largest parking operations, I’m afforded a much more dynamic range to decisions, relative to other industries, like, say the struggling movie theater industry. Much like an artist’s blank canvas, the beauty of my commodity is that it is literally space and if looked at purely in this sense, I’m beginning to discover no shortage of creative options that could be applicable in whatever a post-pandemic world looks like. In fact, amid a landscape where the majority of lockdown-induced business closures are now permanent, whether my company remains in the parking business in the purest sense or transforms into something in line with the concept of Tomorrowland will all depend on how well I adapt the meme to embody an ethos of perpetual innovation and adaptability which can, like the intention of an artist, purposefully inspire.
The comprehension of this idea is where I see others hitting a snare most often. Inspiration is the essence of direction, so in order to kickstart Tomorrowland quicker, I offer some advice:
1. Break off the rearview mirror. Ostensibly, leave the past behind you and take away any ability you have to judge it. This is how you “clear your canvas.”
2. Look to philosophy, not politics. A world gone mad with manipulated financial markets and propaganda smearing. Trust has eroded but can best be reestablished by learning more about and leveraging the human condition.
3. Decentralize decision-making. Be humbled by solutions to problems coming from outside your own organization. Collaboration is the key that unlocks innovation.
It’s also important to consider national and global trends. For example, I’ve watched how Silicon Valley companies have enforced policies of pay reduction for workers who opt in to the now ubiquitous work-from-home option. It seems to me that companies like Facebook and VMWare are simply attempting to dissuade a mass exodus away from city centers, but I fear that these demands will have the opposite effect and push employees further away from metropolitan areas. If this consequence plays out, it will continue to have a deflationary effect on consumer participation and consistently erode away the integrity that held it all together. All of this, of course, affects parking at a deeply intrinsic level.
We also have a proper innovation war, the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla’s infamous competing campaigns to enlist a dominant electricity standard. Times have changed some, but hilariously, the naming conventions haven’t. Nikola Tesla’s alternating current discovery has become the backbone of modern society, but mobility and propulsion are the contemporary problems of the day, which is where a modern battle is being waged by two electric vehicle companies of his namesake. History is something that is destined to repeat. Spectacle, intrigue and everything in between are propelling us inevitably toward a forthcoming invasion of invention that I intend to take advantage of and can only do by maintaining the perspective I’ve adopted. I guess the beauty of having a blank canvas is that it doesn’t really matter which medium (or technology) gets used to paint your masterpiece.
In recent months, the economy has revealed a void of uncertainty. But the funny thing about Tomorrowland is that it’s fueled by that very unknown I’m now having an intimate relationship with. Instead of expecting answers to my most pressing questions — Where will infrastructure investment come from in the future? What private industry investments will dominate? Or how will the new technology paradigm shift/emerge through it all? — I openly embrace a future of flux, one where collective progress looks different than we are accustomed to and where creative agency can be exercised on whatever space that requires rethinking. Winston Churchill is often credited with saying, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” This is a mindset that lends itself with incredible poignancy to an incantation of sorts that has been a helpful navigation tool for me and that I offer freely for the times ahead: “I am aware. I accept. I adjust. I act.”