This past week I was on vacation, retreating to the Jersey Shore as is my custom, summer and winter. Another custom is the annual sandcastle construction I undertake with my nephew Jack. Jack is 10 and each year since he was a baby we have enjoyed building sandcastles together, but over time our casual pastime has become a very deliberate event. There are lessons that you can take away from sandcastle building, at least I have. Here are five, in no particular order:
1. Everybody thinks they can build a sandcastle, until they try. Then they learn they probably can’t. Abandoned, poorly conceived, half built sandcastles litter the beach everyday. Not only children but also adults quickly tire of the project when their initial efforts don’t produce what they had in mind.
2. Sandcastle building takes time and planning and hard work. We determined the day based on weather conditions (not too windy, no rain; overcast and cool is best); we carefully site the construction (this year we set our castle back in the dunes); we set a schedule for ourselves (major site work before lunch, finer details in the afternoon). Jack and I also divide the labor so we are working together as a team, each of us always clear on what the other was doing.
3. There is a process. It is impossible to build a castle from the bottom up, as is the case in other construction. With sand, you have to work from the top down. Ninety percent of the building process is actually sculpting the structure down from a larger pile. Sandcastles are a top down enterprise.
4. There is a process, but not necessarily a plan. Sandcastles take on a shape and form of their own as they grow. And mistakes are not that big a deal. If you quickly acknowledge that some feature is not going well, it is easy to remove it and start that part over.
5. Once you get a really great castle going, people notice, they will even stop to help.