Byron's Babbles

Build Great Things Anyway

I had a chance meeting of a professional sandcastle builder and teacher of sandcastle making this week. First of all, I did not know there was such a thing. Secondly, I didn’t do much sandcastle building in my childhood, so I was fascinated to discuss the art of sandcastle building. Really, I hadn’t thought much about the fact there are different kinds of sand. Bottom-line: lots of new things going through my mind.

There are three main rules for sandcastle building:

  • Always use wet (sloppy) sand (no such thing as too much water)
  • Always form shapes using a pyramid – larger at the base – thinner at the top
  • When all the formed sand is completed work from the top to the bottom

Other pieces of advice were to build on a big mound. This enables sand to fall down and away from the sandcastle as you are carving. And, it makes it up higher and easier to work on. Besides buckets of sand and water, the tools are pretty basic. You use simple tools (like a straw, a pencil, and a metal cutting device) to chisel it starting from the top.

The rule that was stressed over and over was working from the top down. If you work from the bottom up, the pieces from the top will tumble down onto the bottom, thus flawing your previous work. This is a lot like leadership in an organization. If the leader is a tyrannical monster all the trash falls down on the people doing the work getting marred and ruined. Thus, the flatter the organization the better, or at least the leader needs to already be chiseled and refined so all the chaff and sand isn’t ruining those below. But remember, if there are no “those below” in an organization, no worries.

I love that there are people helping kids learn to build sandcastles. When children play and create in the outer world, simultaneously they also create and learn in the inner world. We adults know change is coming when we build sandcastles but we encourage kids to build something great anyway. In our schools and classrooms, this is a valuable lesson. It’s also an important lesson for leaders to remember. Change comes, colleagues come and go, new research is discovered with the ebb and flow of the waves ever coming and going, and the tide is ever shifting. Build great things anyway.