pandora box

What has been unleashed?

Rick Adkins, CFP®

The story of Pandora in Greek Mythology was originally intended to send the message, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature (actually, Zeus).” Pandora, whose name means “All Gifts,” was created with the beauty of Aphrodite, the charms of Athena and the cleverness of Hermes. Up until then, humanity had been free of what the Fates might bring upon man — ills, hard toil and heavy sickness.

Hermes delivered Pandora to one of the Titans as his new wife, but she came with a box (actually a jar) which he told her not to open under any circumstance. Yet her great curiosity got the better of her. She removed the lid, and out scattered Plagues, Diseases, Sorrow, War and Death upon all men. Only Hope remained under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out. Ever since, humans have been able to hold onto this hope in order to survive the wickedness that Pandora released. “Pandora’s Box” has come to signify “anything that is best left untouched, for fear of what might come out of it.” In the South we simply say, “Let sleeping dogs lie.”

In the real world, there are events thrust upon humanity without having to “open a box.” Moreover, not all of the side effects of an opened box are bad.  The COVID-19 pandemic is one such event. All sorts of new behaviors have emerged as creative responses to be able to:

  • social distance,
  • avoid anyone who is likely to carry the virus, or
  • manage the concern of getting into a cramped airplane to fly to a distant meeting.

Some of these new responses and behaviors are probably here to stay. I’m finding that there are certain meetings that I will probably hate to resume attending in-person. I’m starting to value being able to click on a button to start a meeting and use my headset with a microphone near my mouth so that I’m easier to understand. I can take better notes on my computer. When it is over, I click a button and I’m back to work doing the next important thing on my list. There’s no driving, no traffic jams, no speeding ticket risk, no chance of a wreck, no time spent getting there and driving back. Forget just driving to a meeting with us from here in Little Rock – we have clients that were spending two hours – both ways – driving here for a one-hour meeting from Paragould, Jonesboro, Fayetteville or Stuttgart!

With more virtual meetings, we have been forced to re-examine the way in which we convey content. It needs to be cleaner, simpler, clearer and more efficient. We are being forced to continue to innovate. There was a time that we probably innovated too frequently. Now, I don’t know if that’s even possible.  The world is changing so rapidly.

Until this pandemic hit we primarily communicated with clients via the Client Letter at the beginning of our Quarterly Reports – and I mean for the past thirty years! Suddenly, we needed to be able to send an email to all of our clients – routinely on each Friday. We didn’t even have a good way to send an email to all of our clients at once! This also meant that the four of us each needed to write a new message once every four weeks.

Yet, here’s what we’ve learned: three times as many clients have been opening these Friday emails compared to the number of clients opening their Quarterly Reports!

What I suspect is that there will be no “One Way” for doing many things. “Pandora’s Box” has now been opened widely and some things will never get crammed back into the box. We will let you decide what methods and behaviors will become your preferred way of receiving information and communicating with us. Maybe instead of corresponding with an email, you’ll prefer clicking on Zoom or Facetime and just chatting about an issue, face-to-face. A five-minute chat may be quicker, more valuable to you and create greater clarity.

You will determine the answer. We will depend on you letting us know what new ways of doing things you actually prefer over the old ways. At different times, you may prefer different methods. That is what is interesting about where we are today.

Well, that’s enough for now. I think I’ll go back to my other Pandora and listen to my Vivaldi Station. I’m not in a Led Zeppelin or James Taylor mood at this moment! Oh, what she unleashed!

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