12 Most Gritty Parallels Between Sandcastle Building and Business

12 Most Gritty Parallels Between Sandcastle Building and Business

Sandcastles. The very sight of them conjures up images of playfulness, of builders intent on replicating something from the timeless world of royalty and their stone edifices using the shifting sands of the oceanside.

If you could stroll all of the beaches of my state, Florida, you would undoubtedly encounter many sandcastles. You would happen upon sandcastles in the midst of being built, sandcastles abandoned mid-build, sandcastles that somehow managed to stand for days. The sandcastle creation process has lessons that stick with us long after the sun has set and the vacationers have returned home.

1. Plan ahead

If a sandcastle architect wants to build a complex structure, it isn’t going to create itself. That architect may indeed create “something,” but if the goal is a four-section castle with uniform wings, consistent-width turrets, and a decorative theme such a shells for every window, that architect needs to have a plan before starting.

2. Think before you build

The ocean really doesn’t care about your sandcastle plans. Start building at low tide and your castle isn’t going to have much permanence when the tide starts coming in. Thinking ahead is your friend.

3. There’s a job for everyone

There is a job for everyone. A multi-age family can send the younger children to fetch water and sand while older members do the fine detail work on the castle. Similar to the work place, people of varying skill levels like to feel that they have made a contribution. It’s worth the effort to find a job for everyone.

4. Tools can hem you in

Plan your tools. There are little plastic molds that you can use to create the shapes of your sandcastle. Similarly, at work there are templates, forms, and style guides. Sometimes your castle or product needs that uniformity. Other times, your tools can constrict.

5. Materials matter

Similar to a highway that has just had its first midline painted on after being paved, you don’t always need the highest quality materials when you are in “phase one.” Save the expensive materials for the phases of your project that are going to last.

6. Go with the flow

Without the binding element of water, sandcastles would be… amorphous sand piles! Water in sandcastle making is like communication in business. Everyone is their own little pile of substance, but coworkers who keep the information flow alive are better able to create a cohesive product because there’s something moving between them, keeping them connected.

7. Teepees into mountains

A young sandcastle architect was interviewed for this piece. She said her castle started out as a teepee, but “when that didn’t work, we decided it was a mountain.” Flexibility in interpretation can be good for your stress level and your product’s identity. The “teepee” didn’t need to be razed; it needed to be reframed.

8. Breaks are good

Sandcastle building is hot business. An occasional diversion to the water to cool off can be good, physically and emotionally. This is true for the exhausted professional as well.

9. Handle your audience

If you’re building a sandcastle on the beach, you’re going to have an audience (unless you happen to have a private beach). And if you have an audience, you just may have opinions. Stick to your guns. How many times in your professional life have you had to say, “thank you for your input, but I am very satisfied with the course I have chosen?”

10. Embellish

One thing about the beach is that you can find any number of “add-ons” to your sandcastle. Besides the shells and seaside vegetation, it’s likely that beachgoers have left items that may come in handy. If you found an extra resource lying around at work, wouldn’t you want to find a place for it? As with the sandcastle, making good use of everything at your disposal can lead to a product that is uniquely yours.

11. Relinquish control

At the beach, wind blows, waves crash, birds make “deposits” wherever they want to. This is an opportunity to take things in stride and move on. Just like the grant that isn’t approved, the coworker who undermines you, or the customer with whom you just cannot reason.

12. Somewhere deep inside you, a child wants to play

It’s easy to do that at the beach — frolicking barefooted, knowing that the hours for sandcastle building unfurl before you at your whim. It’s harder when there’s a clock to punch (literal or figurative). But as that revered philosopher, LL Cool J said, “Do what you love; you’ll be better at it. It sounds pretty simple, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t get this one right away.”

What aspect of “childhood” projects can you fold into your work life?

Do you have a favorite beach memory? If so, is there some extension of it that can carry forward into your “everyday” life?

Featured image courtesy of box builder licensed via Creative Commons.

Paula Kiger


Paula is a "wife of one, mom of two, friend of many." She works in administration for a non profit corporation and loves to write with her "big green pen" whenever the opportunity arises.

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I had so much fun preparing for this post! Really looking forward to hearing how other people connect the "childhood (ish)" activities with the workaday life! I believe if we let a little more "child" into the "adult" parts of our days, we might all breathe a bit easier!


@Julie Barnes aka The Empowerment Ninja I am glad you liked it!! #7 (teepees into mountains) came directly from my niece after her sandcastle building expedition. I love talking with kids about things - gives such great perspective!