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When I was young I loved to make sand castles and dams on the beach. As a matter of fact, I still do. When my children were old enough to build their own sand castles I was an eager co-worker. I even took my adult shovel with me to add some power to the building.
We created dams to prevent water to flow back to the sea when it was low tide. These dams could span ten, twenty or even thirty meter. And they were difficult to maintain. So we needed to work hard to repair dam breaches and as the water gathered in the artificial lake, we needed to raise the walls. We worked until our hands were raw.
We worked often in silence but sometimes we gave each other instructions and indications. We also helped each other when the water flooded over the sand walls. The purpose was in the challenge.

The purpose was in the challenge.

These are some of the finest memories of my childhood and parenthood. And as I think about them, I realise that this experience is about togetherness.
The goal was to create a lake of warm water. The shallow water was warmer than the water in the sea. This attracted also other kids.
This is something you cannot do alone. You need to combine forces. Together you can achieve more. And it is fun to do. The togetherness creates a sense of immersion, of belonging. Working together and building something with our bare hands makes the togetherness tangible and concrete.
This experience is far away from the artificial shallowness of social media, of abstract charades and complicated rituals that seem to alienate us more than they unite. How we long for concreteness. How we need to belong.

  • If we can find meaning in togetherness, we thrive.
  • If we can find togetherness in concrete experiences, we flourish.

So if you see an adult man, building dams and castles on the beach with his children, just know that he is finding a concrete challenge and that he is enjoying the togetherness he finds in the endeavour.

David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.

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