Thursday, October 9, 2014


“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders.
 Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The above saying aptly captures the essence of this book “Lessons from the Sands”.  Too often we get caught up with the “how-to” of things, I call it the “mechanics” of things; we get impatient when we are unable to conceive the format of specific steps, frameworks and the whole program management of things.  We want to know very quickly the shortest and quickest way to get the job done and reach the destination with the least amount of effort and time.

Typically, we want the assurance of knowledge of everything and demands minimum wastage of time and resource to get there, wherever there is.  This method works perfectly fine in light of modern management, productivity, efficiencies and the likes. 

Along the way, amidst the “busy-ness” of everything, we forgot the original purpose of why we want that “something” in the first place.

This book intends reminds us to focus on that “something”:  “the yearning for the vast and endless sea”, it seeks to provide insight to the value and purpose of every single task that we do everyday, routine or otherwise.  It will describes the “beyond” of things with greater details so that when we come back to the daily grind of things, we will hopefully, have a better sense of meaning, enlightened perspective and reflective insights that might  endear us the long journey ahead.

The tone and pace of this book is shown in the sub-titles: “Not Just…”; urging the reader to really go beyond e.g. the mere existence of living, the simple knowledge, the ordinary application, the plain achievement etc.,.  It is in this mindset of “BEYOND” that defines that there is a whole great exciting world out there that awaits us, in the place called “BEYOND”.  That is what this book is really about: endless pursuit to get to the “beyond” with vigour and zest.

In the last chapter, I will be introducing a new concept, “BUILDERSHIP” and hope to show how it goes beyond leadership and the relationship between them.  The significance of this new concept highlights the purpose of leadership, instead of just the mere “mechanics”

From a simple fascination of building sandcastles with Tom, Linda and my other nephews in 1993, to many insights of the wonderful lessons of life along this great journey, this book hopes to capture the essence, for all to enjoy.  

This is a book about inspiration, about purpose and about building lives.

Enjoy the read.

About this book:   Value & Purpose

Like my first book “Castles Can Fly”, my main reason for writing was to create a proper record of the experiences and stories into one place; so that I do not need to remember them, or to repeat them many times. 

Unlike my first book, which is primarily about my own story of creating a dream sandcastle construction set, Beachworks, which was showcased in New York Toy fair in 1997, this second book is about everybody else’s stories and experiences, which revolves around building sandcastles, the insights gotten from the experience and how they apply it to building lives.  Since 2003, I have been sharing these stories in my motivation talk: “Lessons from the Sands”, which received generous positive feedback.

Both books share the similar trait of providing engaging inspiration and more importantly, to opening minds to a whole new world.  Some call this Awareness, Realizations, “Higher Consciousness”, others “enlightenment”.  For me, I really do not have a word to describe this great wonderful experience, which is why I eventually called it ‘LESSONS FROM THE SANDS”

Knowledge, for knowledge sake, is only the beginning.  To me, it is the application part, the “doing”, that really matters, that really brings us on the journey to something, something “BEYOND”

As you read further, I hope you will find optimism throughout the pages; you may find some epiphanies here and there, or mild form of enlightenment along the way.  You also may discover that I do not relate to any one single source, but rather from a rich diverse worlds of “discoveries”; from the deep world of philosophies, forgotten great classics of literature, the Buddhist spiritual world of Zen learning, the ancient domain of Sufi, the source of architectural appreciation, the primal beauty of sculptures, the exciting world of new pedagogies in experiential education, from the Association of Experiential Education, AEE based in USA, to contemporaries like Paulo Coelho “THE ALCHEMIST, the lives of current greats like Steve Jobs, and lots of real life stories and experiences from the corporate world, the personal stories of insight lives’ challenges, and still so much more.

From it all, I hope to introduce new vocabulary and frameworks to use it for every day’s application.

From my little research, I put together this body of works that will hopefully attribute to greater understanding and appreciation of the world around us.

In a nutshell, the value of this book is to open new worlds.

To the corporate world:                  see new ways of building “things”
To the education world:                   see new ways of learning “things”
To the individuals:                            see new ways of making sense of the world and live fullest, and yearn, once again

The purpose of this book is only one;        Awareness to build a better world.

How to use this book:
“the greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor.”
Aristotle in Poetics,
“Metaphor is one of the brain’s favorite ways of understanding the ‘this and that’ of our surroundings, and reminds us that we discover the world by engaging it and seeing what happens next.          
Diane Ackerman, An Alchemy of Mind
Understanding Metaphors
The experiences and simple stories that I will be sharing came from building great sandcastles and show them as a metaphor to transfer the insights for practical workplace and life application.   As such, the best way to use this book is to have in mind a specific area which you may want to apply these lessons e.g. building an incredible sales team or building personal lives. In that way, you will have your own mental picture and application of the insights.  You will probably form new meanings and insights by yourself, hopefully triggered by some of the thoughts, ideas and insights from this sandcastles experience.  Maybe, it has nothing to do with sandcastles at all, which is also perfectly fine for me.  The whole idea is to trigger one’s thought process to open up a newer world.
This process of opening up a newer world is what I believed the education academics called it “constructivism at work”, i.e. we learn new things and construct newer things with it.
As the subject for building specific ”things” is too varied and diverse, this book is not a “how-to” guide book.  It does not intend to provide details on specific steps nor exacting principles of execution.  The actual details will have to be worked by the reader only after understanding the whole concept.  Perhaps, later on in the series of books, I may go into greater details, but just not right now.
Neither is this book a “feel-good” book, although I do make an effort to provide inspiration; just no specific steps e.g. how to be a better manager, how to be a great parent etc.,  Guiding principles, yes, specific details, no.
It is, however, a practical and down-to-earth book for everyday application, filled with descriptive guides to provide an overall feel and sense of what it takes to build “things.  This is a part-inspirational and part-DIY (Do-it-yourself) kind of book.  It will require your active mental engagement, some reflection, some stillness of the mind and preferably read with an open mind.
By understanding the process of building great sandcastles is only the beginning, albeit an important one.  The parallel is to understand one’s nature, the nature of “things”.
It might be helpful to know that this method of using metaphor has been around for a very long time: from the fables of Aesops in children storytelling , to the endless parables in the Bible, to modern day literature, {read: Animal Farm} to the “un-explainable” Zen experience of learning life and applying it.  So, it should be of some comfort that all I am doing is to really focus on the experience of building great sandcastles and making references into workplace and life application.
No, this is also not a book “How to make a million bucks while you sleep”.  This is about how to live life fullest and enjoy its wonderful-ness.
Enjoy the metaphors.



Architecture is frozen music
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


I really must start with all thing good and great about what building sandcastles can do for the soul before anything else.  Without this important first step, everything else in here will be “meaningless” and empty.

Following Goethe statement that architecture is frozen music, my take is that a great sandcastle is fantasy in architecture.

It is the pure joy of bringing to life a pile of beach sand with the mental notion of an exciting world of soldiers and knights, conjuring images of a fantasy land filled with possibilities and excitement.

It is pure delight to imagine and finally made very intricate doors, windows, arches, bridges coming out from very pure and basic material of sand and water.

The endless possibilities in design and technical challenges bring out the pure childhood delight of surreal-like creation.  The wow-factor that never fail to impress all with a 6 footer tall sand tower, complete with delicate finishes.

Perhaps it is the fascination with creating something so primal and basic like beach sand and seeing wonderful minarets, towers, walls that open a world of amazement and fantasy, not unlike what one would find in the fantasy art world.

Perhaps it is the rhythm of the tides continuously lapping up the shores, the endless white sheet of beach sand that is left behind that softly rocks the soul ever so gently.

Or could it be the gently breezes that kisses the cheek; the endless yonder where the eyes can see?  The clouds, the blue skies, the children laughter and sense of awe, altogether sums up this rich unforgettable experience.

All in all, the real magic may not just be the great sandcastles, but really it is the beach that makes all the difference.  You will not be able to achieve the same magic in a sandbox, nor in the shopping centers nor the green fields’ area.

The very act of communing with mother nature, digging and piling the sand and returning the sand back to the same beach with basic tools that produces impressive results is very therapeutically wonderful.

To some, like myself, sheer heaven means no computer, no electronics, no fancy gadgets etc.,

Just pure human interaction and a very determined attitude to have a great time no matter what.

My yearning, then in 1993 and still is now, is for all the children in the world to build great looking sandcastles.  Yes, I still yearn that.

{ Show lots of impressive sandcastle pictures with smiling faces, young and old }

Some examples of yearning:

In 1984, Steve Jobs created Apple Macintosh and thereafter, created an almost cult-like following of Apple Mac users.  In 2009, Steve Jobs once again started another revolution when he created iphone. Folllowing similar philosophy of providing icon friendly to end consumer, in the shortest time, through his sheer genius he created another magical world.

As I am writing this book now, the world is yearning for iphone 5.

For high end consumer industry, the yearning is especially significant. 

In the auto industries, all the big brands are what all car lovers yearn for.

In the fashion industries, all the ladies of the world generally agree on a few certain brands that evokes that kind of adulation and worship.  The yearning never stops, even when the girls grow older.

In the food industries, everyone will swear by their own favorite dish, made by their favourite person, usually mom, or chefs and kitchen from all around the world.  That longing for that simple taste would be easily described as heavenly.

The purpose of describing yearning for the corporate workplace application is to define that “something” that makes your product and services special; maybe not to all people, but to those that matters.

Yearning, when defined, will provide a clue to the kind of vision, effort and whole host activities that needs to done in the later stages.  But, only when yearning is defined.


It is often said that everything begins with a vision.

I will go one further; every vision begins with a yearning.  A yearning for a better world, a yearning to end suffering, a yearning to a better life etc.,

All great endeavors of the humankind begins with a yearning; revolutions, products, companies, communities, countries, statehood must all begin with a yearning, which lead to a vision, hopefully ably articulated to the rest of the masses.

Without yearning, it will be just a mere vision without meaning and purpose.

Without yearning, we are merely doing a “job”, not much else.

Without yearning, humans will be reduced to mere existence,; no better than mere animals albeit with some greater intelligence.

The vast and endless sea relates to the world of “BEYOND” that I will be referring to quite often.

Points to ponder:  (some pictures)

·            So, what do you yearn for?

·            In our workplace, what is it that your customers yearn for?

·            In our own free time, currently, what does one yearn for?

·            At the end of the day, what do you yearn for, in life?

It will be useful for you to keep these answers as thoughts in your mind as you proceed with the remaining pages.  Unconsciously, you will be building a framework of understanding with your own references, which is what this book is all about, building your own world of new discoveries.
There are many other words that can describe yearning: desire, thirst, hope, optimism, wish, longing, looking forward.  Do find any of these words that will resonate with you, as it is more important to understand the concepts rather than using the words that might limit understanding.

Understanding building of sandcastles

This segment is devoted to explain how sandcastles building can be a wonderful learning medium for various purposes.

From the beginning, at the lowest level, sandcastle building is often perceived as a time for the families with young children to spend a few hours by the beach.  It is usually associated with very young children and toddlers; and it consists of nothing more than sandplay for the little ones to explore their hands grabbing the plastic toys, feeling the texture of sand with their bare palms and for the older ones, running to the sea to collect pails of water.

All in all, a few hours for everyone just to unwind and soak in the wind, the sun and the sea.   Nothing more, really.  I call this state: Level 1 – Basic Level

At the next level, you have people like myself and many others, who want the thrill of being able to construct that taller sandcastle that bears some resembles to the real castle, those tall arches that seems to defy gravity, the moat that comes with the castle, the bridges that seems to lead to nowhere and those tall walls that surrounds the castle and so much more.  This is level 2 for me. – Beginner’s Level

At the other extreme end, at the highest level, you may come across, on the newspaper or the internet, those world championship of sand sculptures that showcase Michaelangelo type of beautiful masterpiece works of arts.  Those, I believe, belongs to very talented few, who possess those blessed gift of producing intricateness and fine details with awe-inspiring designs and themes.  This level goes far beyond just sandcastles, into the world of very fine details of facial features, flowing hair, petals and endless possibilities.

Speechless, with great admiration, is how I feel about their works and the talent they possess.  I will call this span anywhere between level 5 to level 10, depending on the quality of fine details.  This is Master Class levels

The purpose of this book is not about the intricacies of these levels.  Perhaps, one day in the future, I might share with greater details.  Meantime, my focus is on the learning.

Somewhere between level 2 and level 5, there exist levels for decent looking sand castles for people without talent. That’s the reason why Beachworks was created in 1995.  Beachworks enable mere mortals, without much innate talent and learned skills the ability to produce decent looking sandcastles and the endless permutation of combining the different tool and molds  to produce endless designs of sandcastles.  I call this level 3 – Beachworks Level

Level 4 is about the learning from the experience of building sandcastles.  From the many years of doing teambuilding programs for the corporate, the management staff, the teaching staff and practically all other walks of lives, I created this medium for the participants to translate their experience into workplace application.  Much later, upon collecting lots of these lessons, I then realized the application into life in general.

I call this level 4: Learning level, which is the primary purpose of this book.

The learning here does not relate to building better sandcastles, even though with practice it can be done.  More importantly, it is the ability to learn, to see, to be aware of the building process and the ability to relate to workplace and life, in general.

When I first start out in the teambuilding industry, and it still exist today, it is more of activities than of learning.  For example, lots of these so-called team-building programs consists of nothing more than a series of recreational activities.  While I do not disagree for the need of recreation, I do, however, feel very strongly that it should not be term as team-building.  It is basically recreation with no serious effort to translate the learning process.

When there is some learning process, I found that the level of facilitating the learning to be very basic and generic. The so-called “teambuilding” lessons were rather superficial and there was practically zero or very little transference to actual corporate challenges.  I told myself, there must be more to it than just that.

It is in this light that I went a lot deeper into the world of experiential learning, particularly with sandcastle building.

The learning part will be a lot clearer when I explain all the different learning. 

My purpose of creating this framework of different levels is to facilitate better understanding and communication.  I have great difficulties to make my customer see what I am really trying to do with the learning part.  Quite often, all they do see is only level 1, at best level 2, and no more.

It is especially crucial in the teambuilding industries, where lots of players who have no clue, knowledge and understanding of sandcastle building, yet proclaim by using pictures off the internet to be sandcastle building programs provider.  I hope you can understand my pain and agony.

This book is to provide clarity on the subject of learning from building sandcastles.

Sandcastles as a metaphor for learning
Sandcastle enjoys a magical feel to it that fascinates people, especially children of all ages.  Poets, song writers, philosophers, zen masters, story tellers would use them freely to describe something free-spirited, whimsical and care-free. I managed to locate a few popular metaphors here and you may think about a few more as you read on:
·         EPHEMERAL  (definition: lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory)
It is often thought that it is a pity that the existence of sand castle is so fleeting and short lived.  It resonates with the thought that life is short, therefore we need to treasure it even more.  However, at the same time, sadly it may also provoke another sentiment: since it lasts so short, why bother so much effort?
·         FRAGILITY
The sandcastle is so vulnerable to the weather and other elements. It gets easily destroyed. It does not help that children, especially those with destructive nature, will destroy it, for no rhyme or reason. 
It suggests impermanence, lack of protection and to most people, it really does not warrant too much attention nor effort.
·         BEAUTY
With very basic material, it evokes a different kind of beauty.  Not the kind of Michelangelo-type, but more the kind that ordinary people can create something wonderful like sandcastles.  Beauty is also sometimes seen through wonderment at especially those gravity defying arches, or seemingly impossible angles of slant.  In the sand sculpture world, it is known as technical challenges.
It resonates with the wonderment of the ability to create something from nothing.
Eventually, the waves will wash the sandcastle away.  The mighty ocean will reclaim back what is theirs.  The realization that the mighty force of Mother Nature cannot be stopped brings about sadness and pain when faced with harsh reality of life.
·         TIME
The sense of time passing, probably induced from the lapping waves, provides a momentarily freeze of time, or in slow motion.  It is as if times stood still when one is building sandcastles.
·         MEMORIES
Usually associated with wonderful childhood times spent with families and loved ones.
·         STORIES
Children will form stories about all the exciting adventures that go on in the castle.  It is not just about the castle, but the endless possibilities of what can be built. It is that magical feeling of suddenly being transported to another world; a world that is only limited by one’s imagination.
These are just some of the popular images that are associated with sandcastles.  From here, I will continue with more lessons especially from the experience of building aspect of sand castles.

From my close contacts with the creation called sandcastles since 1993, I began to sense the true nature of sandcastles.  This I how I truly feel about the sandcastle:
Humble and lowly grains of sands put together with great love and care to form extra-ordinary “being” that can only last so long.
For the shortest period of adoration and awe from strangers and passer-by, when un-supervised and un-protected, it gets destroyed, usually not by weather or natural elements, but by the “destructive” nature in the children.
Sad, to see children destroying beautiful sandcastles;
Sadder still, to look at the adults who watch children destroying them and not utter a single word to stop them.
The nature of sandcastle is that it is highly vulnerable, it is usually not looked highly upon. It is made of sand or earth, something that is trodden upon.  In certain culture, the hands that touches the sand belongs to the farmers and the peasants; only the lowly class needs to ekes a living touching the lowly earth while the rich and educated rise high and above with no need to touch the lowly earth.
The sandcastle is very static, very muted and have no life of its own.  It takes on the life of its creator, the sandcastle builder. 
The sandcastle has no basic purpose other than to entertain the child. It has no economic value unlike pottery and permanent sculptures.  Nor is it able to provide any basic form of needs, e.g. shelter, food or to end any human sufferings.  Probably that is why sandcastles belongs to the class classified under ”whimsical child play”, much like blowing bubbles and flying kites.
Situated at the sea shores, tightly sandwiched between large mass of land and large mass of water, the sandcastle was born from 2 very different “parents”: sand and water.
Yet, without children and the adults that accompanied them, without the simple tools that will mold the grains together, without the innate nature of man’s desire to create, the sandcastle would not have existed.
So, I conclude that the creation of sandcastle is never by accident.  Much less the really intricated ones. 
Thus, lies the true nature of sandcastles:
Great things never came about by accident.
Great things came about: firstly with great desire to create and follow through by sheer determination; and with full knowledge that all things can only last so long.
Great things can only be created by great people, those who are aware of the nature of things and aware that people must be constantly reminded.

The bulk of my learning process comes from using metaphors to transfer the learning insights from building the sandcastles into the application for workplace and life skill usage.
The source of learning in this case is the experience of building great sandcastles.
The end point is the application part for workplace or lifeskill usage.
The means to learning is the usage of metaphors.
{{ To look for an image to show building sandcastles with people inside: a window to the other side showing building companies, countries etc.,  with a big wide arc to show the direction }}


Definition of Metaphor
Originally, the word “metaphor” was a Greek word meaning “transfer”. The Greek etymology is from Meta, implying “a change” and herein meaning “to bear, or carry”. In modern Greek, the word, “metaphor” also means transport or transfer.
A metaphor carries an idea from one area of thought to another.
In cognitive linguistics, metaphor is defined as understanding one conceptual domain in terms of another conceptual domain. Metaphors have an essential creative role in literature and the arts, in planning, architecture and design. They provide a system of thought that can supplement or bypass logic.
It is in the area of “senses” that will be most useful to relate to: to building sandcastles, to build everything else.
The following words will be most useful to you along the way  e.g. if you are not familiar or comfortable with some of the concepts, please exchange these words to suit your own better understanding. I have no professional training in this field; just a lay person attempting to understand and explain complex concepts in the most simple ways.

·         Awareness,  Consciousness,  Minds, Emotion,  Parables,   Insights, Inspiration

·         Reflection, Aha-moments, Enlightenment, Sense, Truism, To see parallel

·         Epiphany, Awakening, Manifestation, Intuition, Perception
Source: George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in Metaphors We Live By

So, what shall we build today?

So, What shall we build today?

The building process is what we do every day, consciously or otherwise.  We articulate it to show the bigger picture and to make the point that the building process requires vision planning, effort and everybody’s help to make it come through.

Here are some examples that I can think of:

Early in our childhood lives, both in the schools and at home, we are often told to build good habits, build a strong foundation of good values, build a vocabulary of simple words, build daily routines, and build simple knowledge.

As we get older, we become more aware of the surroundings and more complex human emotions, we learn to build character, build friendship and build relationship. From sports, we learn to build teams, muscles, minds, stamina, leadership and grace in defeat. From arts, we learn to build an appreciation of beauty and meanings. In the process of growing up, we encounter problems, challenges and rejections, we learn, mostly by ourselves through observation, to build resilience, courage and perseverance.

As we begin our early adulthood by having a job, we quickly learn the need to build competencies, build job skills, and subsequently build a career or build a business.  It may be about this time, dreams are beginning to form and perhaps begin the serious attempt to make it come true.

In the corporate management world, we build work teams, work processes, networks of business contacts, alliances, supply chains, business partnership, connections, leadership, management skillsets etc., Terms like building consensus, collaboration, goodwill, hubs, platforms, capacities, stockpiles become more common, all of which require the process of building deligently. For some privilege ones, building portfolios, building brands, building corporate culture, building social culture, building government/administration, building professional and community groupings.  In our personal lives, we are continuously building and rebuilding relationship as we move along.

Finally, in the twilight of our lives, we begin to look back and ponder, the legacy we built and left behind, the

In short, due to our innate human nature, everyday we are building something.  
Both the tangibles and the intangibles, some are short-term, others long term.

So, my thought is this:

Since we are building something every day, wouldn’t it be logical to make some effort to translate the insights from building great sandcastles into life skill and workplace application so that everyone can have greater awareness and enjoys the building process along the way?

Now, isn’t that a great thought?

The first lesson is a simple 4-steps process flow.  The simplicity of these 4 steps is its very strength.  Let me explain:

Everything begins with an idea or a single thought.  Whether it is a song, a tune with a few bars, a wonderful relationship, a successful career or business unit, it all begins with an idea or a single thought.

Then it slowly evolves into a vision, as more parts begin to fill in.  One of the key factor at this stage that decides the pace of envisioning would be an indication of passion, drive and desire.  How badly do you want this vision to come true?  Do you have some ideas how it might come about?  Or is it just a passing fancy of a very sexy idea of a business? Or it is “everybody-else-is-doing-anyway, -so-might-as-well-get-into-it” type of business idea?

This initial stage can be pretty exciting and on extreme ends, causes sleepless nights.  It will be filled with almost no-holds bar type of imagination.  Depending on the number of people who share the same vision, and the type of personality involves, there is practically no limit to fine tuning the vision part.

Admittedly, it is not difficult to understand this 4-steps process, nor does is sound very profound or original.  However, the reason why this lesson carried so much importance in this book is because it is often neglected and quite often we jump straight from vision right into details, bypassing the foundation and structure stages.  Or that we need constant reminders about these 2 important points time and again. The purpose of this 4-steps process is really to re-emphasis the importance of the foundation and the structure, which is very prominent in the sandcastle building construction phases.

Another aspect of this 4-steps process is really the application of it into other non-tradition non-tangible areas e.g. human emotions, human relationship etc.,

Perhaps for middle to senior management reader, this lesson might appear to be stating the obvious.  Perhaps this lesson will be a lot more significant to the people at the lower levels as they may have lesser occasions to see the big picture and lesser opportunities to put into practice and given a chance to articulate in their own words, what they consider to be foundation and structure.  In this modern day and age of globalization and the internet, it is all the more important that all can participate in the building process.

Thus the significance of this framework is the fact that it can be participated by all.  There is no need for very high education nor lots of experience to contribute into this framework.

To help make this lesson clearer, let me use a recent experience to explain these 4-steps process:

We were invited to organize a major Park festival in September 2011 to celebrate World Parks Day.  I propose some ideas for and it was revised several times before the design was finally accepted.  Because we need a very huge amount of sand to create a very tall design estimated 13 feet, we had to transport some 16 trucks load of sand.  Due to the nature of the soft sand on the beach, the heavy trucks were unable to come close to the designated area, we eventually took 2 days just to have a huge pile of sand for us to sculpt.

Once the foundation of the sandpile was laid, we took a day and half with 8 skilled sand sculptors to put sand exhibit together.

The next day, some 800 participants came and enjoyed the view and took part in the large gathering of sand castle builders.

{{ Show newspaper writeup and final exhibit}}

To sum up the whole experience, using the 4 steps, would look something like this:



From this example, I’ll now proceed to describe in greater details an open platform for each step:

TO BUILD A GREAT “generic open platform”

In summary, these 4 steps can be further simplified:

·       VISION:                   WHAT IS IT THAT WE WANT, REALLY?
·       STRUCTURE:          WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANT                                        …………………………..FEATURES AND ACTIVITIES?
·       DETAILS:                 WE NEED MORE DETAILS…


As this is an open platform to describe these 4 steps, at this point in time, my purpose is to show clearly the different stages and what it takes.

As emphasized earlier, the beauty is in its application.  I’ll proceed to show just some examples as my purpose is really to show the framework, not so much the details as the details must be gotten from the participants of building process.  In other words, it must be in the words of the participants, as there is no correct answer.

·         Finer points of each structure
·         Extra effort and touches to enhance process
·         Additional space for extra capacities
·         What are the things that we enjoy doing together?
·         How often can we do things together?
·         Develop “second” nature
·         Define basis for the relationship
·         Key fundamentals that are non-negotiable
·         Value system for both sides: Trust, integrity, honesty, commitment, openness, transparency.
·         A clear articulation of intended purpose and scope
·         Describe emotions: hopes, fears and sense of ability to achieve
·         Describe what is not desirable

·         Finer points of each structure
·         Extra effort and touches to enhance process
·         Additional space for extra capacities
·         What are the things that we enjoy doing together?
·         How often can we do things together?
·         Develop “second” nature
·         Define basis for the great customer relationship
·         Key fundamentals that are non-negotiable
·         Value system for both sides: Trust, integrity, honesty, commitment, openness, transparency.
·         Describe how the customer would enjoy the relationship
·         Describe emotions: hopes, fears and sense of ability to achieve that relationship
·         Describe what is not desirable
Summary of the 4 steps


This is the beginning stage that is filled with wide-eyes amazement and quiet excitement.  The intention is to see beyond the current reality into a world “beyond”; what else would we be able to do about it?

Contrary to popular belief, at this stage, there are usually neither fireworks nor large celebration to herald the arrival of.  I suspect the main reason is:

Great things usually come through a quiet entrance.

At times, great anticipation can “kill” a great beginning by having un-realistic expectation at the early stages.

In popular management book “Good-to-Great” by Jim Collins, he outlined 100 very successful corporations, and one common thread that runs through them is the quiet efficient way of implementing things.  i.e. there were no flamboyant and loud outlandish programs that heralds the beginning of a “great” era.  Rather it is the quiet way ones get about to make things happen.  Same with the vision stage, with quiet contemplation, great vision were born.  It is time for the “bigger” components to come into places first, the details will follow behind.  It is also a risk taking time, that some of the assumptions might not be true.  However, this is also the time, at some point in time, that there is no turning back.

Plans to be drawn, troops to be gathered, alliance to be formed and endless amount of things to do; just so this vision will come true.

Jesus Christ was born in the humble manor;  many modern day successful techno-preneurs were drop-outs from the universities e.g. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs,  

Thus begins the vision stage.


This is the stage of sheer hard work with endless hours on setting things up.  It will probably not be a good time to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It will be probably the time with some mistakes, errors and failures along the way, but nothing fatal enough to offload the vision.

It is the stage where total faith in the vision is called for.  And nothing else matters except quiet soldering on.


Structure stage

Somewhere in-between the foundation stage and structure stage, this is the time where traditions, practices and rituals begins to form.  It is important as this form the milestones and constant reminders of how things should be done, how the important virtues and values can be transmitted through these practices and

Identifying the important components and activities to build the thing.

Lesson #1: At first, there was nothing; then we created everything.

This is one of the most popular feedbacks from our programs.  This sense of wonderment comes about usually, as the end of the program when we look back at the amazing sandcastle results that we helped them build.   Quite often, as we stroll along the beach, we pay scant attention to the very sand that we step upon.  The sand is humble by nature, which really does not command your attention; unlike the waves pounding on the shore, the beautiful skies and pretty clouds, the beautiful sunset, the pleasing sensation of the soothing seabreeze etc.,

It is precisely this lack of appreciation of the sand that brings about this first lesson.  i.e. We can create everything from nothing.

It is from these very primary elements of beach sand and sea water, plus human ingenuity and determination that we can create the wonderful world around us and quite often, beyond our own expectations.

From very simple shapes and some sense of spatial appreciation, we will be able to construct, in our minds and through simple paper and pen, some visions of the intended sandcastles designs. 



Ah, to build, to build! That is the noblest art of all the arts.  

“The 21st century doesn’t need more leaders – nor more leadership.
Only builders can kickstart the chain reaction of a better, more authentic kind of prosperity.”

The Builders’ Manifesto by Umair Haque (Harvard Business Review)

Here’s the problem in a nutshell.  What leaders “lead” are yesterday’s organizations.  But yesterday’s organization – from investment banks, to the healthcare system, to energy industry, to transportation and logistics, are broken. 

Endless take over of organization and companies, by simply replacing names and without creating and building new value and purpose, I call this “ Corporate “cannibalism”, is another problem in a nutshell.

Today’s greatest human challenge isn’t leading broken organizations slightly better, or merely rearranging business units and blocks endlessly.  It’s building better organizations in the first place.  It is not about leadership: it’s about “buildership”.

Builders forge better building blocks to construct economies, policies, and societies.  They are the true primer movers, the fundamental cause of prosperity.  They build the institutions that create new kinds of leaders – as well as managers, workers, and customers.

These are 10 principles of Constructivism, according to Umair Haque:

1.      The boss drives group members, the leader coaches them. The Builder learns from them.

2.      The boss depends on authority, the leader on goodwill. The Builder depends on good.

3.      The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm.  The Builder is inspired – by changing the world.

4.      The boss says”I”; the leaders says “we”. The Builder says “all” – people, communities, and society.

5.      The boss assigns the task, the leader sets the pace.  The Builder sees the outcome.

6.      The boss says, “Get there on time;” the leader gets there ahead of time. The Builder makes sure “getting there” matters most.

7.      The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown.  The Builder prevents the breakdown.

8.      The boss knows how; the leader shows how.  The Builder shows why.

9.      The boss makes work drudgery; the leader makes work a game.  The Builder organizes love, not work.

10.  The boss says “GO”, the leader says “Let’s go”.  The Builder says: “COME”
Leadership has a lot to do with motivation, influence, and power.

My summary is that builders (constructivists):
·         believe in community
·         are motivated by the desire to change things for the better
·         are inspired by what could be
·         work to show why the destination matters
·         draw passion for the enterprise, and
·         are there every step of the way.
And to distill it further: Builders believe in, and work for, a mission and a vision founded on values.


The relationship between leadership and buildership is closely related, especially inspirational leadership.  It is not my contention to say that one is good and the other is bad. There are not mutually exclusive.  My task is to point out the differences so as to remind leaders go beyond just leading, which is building.

I shall attempt to pointed out some of the fine difference for clearer understanding:  Let’s start with the familiar.

Leadership is the art of leading, usually leading people. It encompasses all activities to do with leading e.g. influence, power, authority, status etc.,

Buildership is the art of building “things”, people included, applicable to all forms, as mentioned earlier. It encompasses all activities to do with building e.g. partnership, consensus etc.,

Leadership is usually about the individuals or a small group of individuals, e.g. leadership styles, characters, charisma, attitudes, traits, fortitude and perseverance.

Buildership is about everyone in the organisation, community or groupings.  It will talk about the foundation, structures, process, values, basis of building.

In leadership, we are referring to the people being led to results.

In buildership, we are referring to the people who build outcomes.

In leadership, people move to the drumbeat of the drum, usually set by the leaders, or management.

In buildership, the building process is not so straightforward, in t may be somewhat spontaneous and the pace may be dictated by the environment, marketplace or urgency situation.

In leadership, the burden lies on the leaders to influence the team.

In buildership, the burden lies on all to contribute.

In leadership, during the change of leaders, it may involve the change of guards and camps. E.g. everyone tend to compare the differing styles of current and past leaders.  So the focus is still back on the individuals.

In buildership, the leaders is merely one of the tools, minimum changes in pace and setting is detected. e.g. the change of leaders maybe a none-event.

In leadership, cliques and sub-groupings are formed to connote the loyalties to certain leaders.

In buildership, all loyalties are truly devoted only to the final outcome, regardless of leaders.

In leadership, getting the status or authority is key to becoming a leader.

In buildership, it is less important who the leader is, as it may be an administrative function.

In leadership, it is a function of the individuals and the time the individuals is around.
In buildership, it is a function of values and the time the values are around
i.e. the time for buildership will by far last a lot longer than the individuals. E.f. 5 to 10 years as CEO, compared to 100 years old companies, still building.

In leadership, the current mode would be about the near future e.g. 3 to 5 years
In buildership, it will probably be about a mid-to longer term e.g. more than 5 years.

Examples of leadership and buildership.

In Jim Collins book, “Good to Great” the good companies probably enjoyed the benefit of having good leadership.

However, in the really great companies, there is a certain tendencies for the buildership to be evident.

Buildership, or “Constructivism” doesn’t just mean “to improve on yesterday”.  It means “to build for tomorrow.”

Of course, everyone has their own definition of leadership – and that’s why it’s a tricky subject to discuss.

20th century leadership is what’s stopping 21st century prosperity.

  • Leadership was built for 20th century economics.

With the event of rapid globalization and internet technology, e.g. wikipedias, google, Youtube, mobiles, twitter, facebook, social networks and a whole proliferation of exciting channels of information streaming endlessly, the main factor of INFLUENCE takes on a whole new meaning.  It is no longer from the top, no longer from the leader.  What we are having is a whole mass of individuals getting together, most often, without specific leaders.

Think: giant draconian industrial-era organization versus superfluous very flat “entity”
Think: marketing, decision making,

In the brave new world, the textbook skills of the “leader” – persuasion, delegation, collation – somewhat sounds a bit hollow.

Build, Don’t just lead begins to makes some sense.

  • LEADERS don’t lead

20th century created large bureaucries and orgnaisations, in turn the need for “leaders”: people who could navigate the endlessly twisting politics at the heart of such organizations, and so ensure their survival.

Organization creates leader and “leadership” was built to fit it.

“ … the emergence of forms of organization relies on levels of inequality in the environment rather than the leader…..  Even when leaders are involved, their selection, role, and fate are controlled by events, events that are inspired by the framework of inequalities in an era.”

A level of inequality and events, not leadership, creates the organization.

In “A New Leadership Ethos: The ability to Predict”  by _______________, there are 4 types of leaders: the confronter, transformer, builder, and grower.

Confronter: Seeks turnaround, confronts established thinking, Unlocks and opens organization, shakes up and purifies.

Transformer: Searches for meaning, concerned with internal potential, brings innovators together, searches for platform of growth

Builder: Searches for niches, concerned with external inequalities; leads by vision and passion, builds individual and collective loyalty

Grower: Duplicate success, concerned with internal inequalities, leads by culture, sets boundaries, introduces specialists and processes.

Builders have the vision of the……………

APPLE:  In the ‘60s, Steve Jobs saw a world of computers without the pains and agonies of computer programming, created Apple computers.  John Scully, former CEO of Coca Cola, a brilliant leader, took over the task the lead the company, which almost brought to destruction.

Steve Jobs returned, with a totally new vision, NEXT.  He redefines the consumer ( human) involvement in the model and rebuild once again.

To yearn for the vast and endless sea.

Mahatma Gandhi: He created one of the most significant institutions in history: Nonviolent resistance.  An idea so powerful that future generations continue building on it e.g. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Aung Sung Suci, Dalai Lama etc.,