About Me

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William is an Assistant Professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in the Department of Business Administration and Tourism and Hospitality Management. He is fascinated by research around how individuals construct and create their social realities, intrigued with the powers of creativity and innovation, and an avid proponent of outstanding service experiences. When not teaching, writing, or researching, he tries to spend time with his family and occasionally paint. He is currently completing his PhD in Management at Saint Mary’s University.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Moving: I've got new digs!

Hey there!

This is just a quick note to everyone who has joined my community with "The Education of a Prof".

If you haven't heard, I've got new digs! A brand new home at www.williamcmurray.ca where you can continue to find my blog, information about me, work that I'm doing and much, much more.

Like any new house, it's going through some 'decorating' as additional content gets added and features built. But it is my home. If there is something you'd like to see - send me a note!

While you're checking out the new place, be sure to sign up for the RSS feed (I hear Feedly has been getting lots of attention lately) OR put your email into the subscription area and be the first to get all the updates and new information.

I'll leave everything up on Blogger for a while. But all new posts, blogs and other information will be over here now. Come check it out!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Focus on shaping the letters

“I don’t LIKE writing!” he states emphatically.

It’s an all-too common scene. Sitting at his little desk, my son struggles against the work in front of him. Being six years old and practising basic writing skills can be daunting. In his mind, it’s a mountain to climb and he doesn't think that he has the gear.

The problem isn't that he can’t print; it’s the challenge of writing out a paragraph. That’s a LOT of words! Too many words! It’s, like, a whole BOOK Dad! (I wish.)

He’s overwhelmed and, in classic fashion, has dug in his heels.

And I get it.

As I sit here looking at my to-do list for the next few days, filling up the better part of a page, I'm overwhelmed. That’s a LOT of things to do! It’s hard to concentrate on taking action when the list is daunting. It’s easier to turn the list over, to pull out the toy action figures and fade into a land of imagination without lists. Without tasks or things to do. Without…writing a paragraph.

In 1986, I found myself working in a kitchen, the first of many kitchens I would work in over the next few years. A dishwasher in the truest sense of the term, washing most everything by hand with just the assistance of the tiniest of machines to help sanitize the wares. After the dinner rush, dishes would be piled everywhere. Bus pans bunched up on racks, filling counters, and arranged in rows down the hall. But I was strangely happy in that job because I knew the secret. Wash one dish at a time as well and as quickly as possible. Get that dish cleaned properly and I’d never have to wash it twice. The process became Zen-like as the dishes went by one by one until the kitchen was once again clean. A life lesson learned in the dish pit.

And I also know that I can write. I can write a single paragraph in a session - oh ya, I know how to do that. It’s a manageable task for me. I've learned to complete small, measurable tasks and I ‘try’ to focus on the doing the best I can on the work in front of me.  

As I remember this, I look down at my son, stuck at his desk, and tell him, “Don’t worry about the paragraph.” He’s confused.

“Let me ask you a question. Can you write one letter really, really well?” I ask. And he does it beautiful.

“How about another letter? Show me that.” Again, he does it in textbook fashion.

We continue this little back and forth for a minute, me calling out letters while he knocks them out. He starts to get it. The paragraph isn't important – the letters are. And he can do the letters!

Eating the elephant one bite at a time. Measuring twice, cutting once. We have lots of descriptions for this. But at the core, it’s about doing one thing at a time to the best of your ability.

Focus on shaping the letters; the words have a way of figuring themselves out.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

With a great snow blower comes great responsibility

It’s snowing in Halifax. Surprise, surprise. It is winter after all and in this city, with winter comes snow.

And with snow comes the expected waist-high dump mountain of ploughed snow at the end of every driveway left, with love, by the city.

For the last two years, the neighbour on our left (your right) has, when the weather was particularly nasty, wandered over with his snow blower to help carve out the gift left by the plough. The first time we experienced this in 2010. I was busy focused on cleaning my steps when I heard the sounds of turbine blades at the foot of my driveway. There he was, machine in hand, pushing through what the city had left us. Arcs of snow rooster-tailed gracefully into the air as he cut through the hill of powder and ice.

I walked to the end of my driveway and had the first of what would be many chats with my neighbour. We talked of work and weather, family and fate. And as he attacked the hip-high hill, I would work on his lane, shoveling the smaller areas. We worked like tandem, moving snow in unison, each helping the other with the tools at hand.

Last summer, he moved away. I had lost my shovelling partner in crime. And today, during the big weather event, I missed him.

But something interesting happened...

My wife came down to my office to inform me that our other neighbour on the right (your left) was in our driveway carving a path through the waist-high mountain of snow left by the street plough. Of course, I needed to gear up and get out there! You cannot let someone show that type of spirit with making an appearance. There he was, red snow plough in hands, cutting into the pile. I walked out to him so that he could see me wave in appreciation. So that I could make my thanks evident.

He turned off the machine and smiled at me.
“I didn’t know you had a snow blower! Thanks so much for the help.” I said.
“Just got it this year – bought it off of Paul when he moved. Happy to help!” he replied.
Paul was the neighbour on our left (your right). It’s was Paul’s snow blower.

It seems that the new owner had not only bought the snow blower, but with the purchase, acquired the ‘responsibility’ that came with it. He now had the means to help those on either side of him when he could, using the tools at his disposal when the right time presented itself. He understood the tradition and stepped up to the responsibility.

School was in session today. The school yard was snowy and the lesson came in arcs of snow. Perhaps one day, I’ll be in possession of the snow blower, running the red machine between houses of shovellers hard at work. If that happens, I’ll take the responsibility seriously.

After all. It's the human thing to do.