A friend of mine was thinking of leaving her current academic home to build a new Institute at BFU (big fancy university). The Deans had recently shuttered her Institute (it was no longer a priority), and she was enticed by the money and opportunity to build something new.
Many people spend time and energy building something only to realize later how fragile it all is. The harsh truth: most castles we build are made of sand. This is true whether your castle is an academic Institute (then de-prioritized), a research project (which isn't funded or is rejected), a business project (then killed after the Company's/Board's interests shift), or a social media following on a platform (then de-platformed or the platform is sold/moved/shut down).
"While the allure of a new Institute at BFU is probably enticing, along with the resources to build it", I said to her, "it seems just as fragile as any sand castle. Would you still go without the Institute? Or if it didn’t exist in 5 years?"
This thinking brings me back to the castle that I am beginning to build here (a new Center), which, candidly, is also made of sand. Leadership could kill the project at at whim — although I have been assures it is a priority…and a strong fundraising opportunity. So what then? Will she go to BFU? It's too soon to tell. Should I try to build something so fragile?
It’s less about what you build, and more about the people you meet and the enjoyment of creating things along the way.
Realizing our castles are made out of sand that are susceptible to the tides and whims of others can help prioritize what to work on and why.