Category Archives: integrity

Critiquing critique: A blessing in disguise


How to avoid criticism

This isn’t a post about how to deal with criticism. People deal with it in their own way…some more maturely than others. I want to address the benefits of criticism to those lucky enough to step out and welcome it.

Reporters join athletes, leaders, politicians, actors and many many others as members of the public eye. It certainly has its benefits but as the door opens up for all the glory so does the pain.

Of course the public eye is more than your parents, your friends and your little rah-rah group that supported you throughout your life. It’s also made up of people with completely different upbringing, morals, beliefs and standards. It’s not a good or bad thing, it’s just humanity. I’ve dished out my own fair share of criticism. Everyone does.

As I’ve grown into my new job and have gotten over the rookie hurdles, I’m now trying to focus on the quality of the work over simply meeting deadlines and learning how to write. Lately I’ve been taking some hits from the community over my work not being up to par with other papers. I’m surprised how bad it hit me really, but looking back at my life I can see why it did.

I’ve been a hermit my whole life living in a sheltered little bubble. Obviously I’m shy but it goes beyond that. The strategy in my life until lately has been to avoid conflict at all costs. Seems simple, if I avoid conflict and confrontation I can’t be hurt. Of course I also can’t reap any awards. I would only make a move when it was almost 100 percent fail proof, otherwise I wouldn’t do anything. I’ve always been a people pleaser. As long as everyone else was happy I was, but everyone had to be happy or it’d kill me. Everyone had to like me or at least be indifferent about me. If someone messed with me or picked on me I couldn’t comprehend why and it would tear me up inside.

I’m realizing now later in life that negativity has always been there, I’ve just hid myself from it. I realize now even if I do something 100 percent perfect there will still be critic. Even Gandhi has haters.

It took me a while to understand this concept but if I had never stepped up and became a reporter I’m afraid I never would’ve. Part of the reason I became a reporter was to confront all of my fears and demons head-on and this was one of the unexpected ones. I’ve grown more appreciation for the successful athletes and other figures I’ve criticized throughout the years for what they do and what they have to deal with.

I realize now criticism isn’t a curse, it’s really a blessing. Obviously I don’t take everything to heart. However, I do agree with some points my critics make and I do agree I need to make changes. Feedback, both positive and negative, is the only real way your blind spots become exposed and become fixable. The only way to get feedback is to step out and throw your work to the hounds. That’s why I’m thankful for it because I know there are millions of people out there just as I was, too scared to step out. Sure they will never be criticized but they’ll also never be able to improve themselves and be the best they can be.

I’m not telling you to f**k the haters, I’m not telling you to ignore them, I’m not telling you to label them as bullies and do the same thing they do to you. I’m telling you to love them as hard as it may be and accept they will always be there. Channel it into a positive.

Now go on and give this one star.

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Taking the Lumps


Once again I apologize for my lack of updates. Now that I’m interning at the Springfield News-Sun on top of working at my other job I really haven’t had a lot of free time. Also, I didn’t really have anything floating around in my head that I thought was worthy of a post, until now at least.

I’m entering week 6 of my 8 week internship. It’s been a great experience for me and definitely a wake up call. I thought after freelancing for a year at school I would be ready to take on the world.

I was wrong.

During the course of this internship I’ve felt strange like I was in a funk. A funk is a good way to describe it. I feel like I’m not progressing as fast as I’d like to. I’m having trouble building relationships with my co-workers due to my social skills. I feel like I haven’t been giving it my best but at the same time I feel like a haven’t gave it my worst. To sum it up I’ve felt average. For me this feeling is simply unacceptable. I would rather fail than just be average. At least with failure comes a learning experience. It is one thing to fail giving it your all but it is another thing to fail because you we’re to scared to call that extra source out of some irrational social fear. Just like seeing my goals become reality is the greatest feeling for me, seeing me not live up to them feels equally as bad.

I’m trying to pinpoint what my problem is. Could it be that I’m simply burning out after from 70 hour work weeks and not having a legitimate period of rest since spring break? Could it be because it’s only an internship and not a real job?

Maybe it’s a combination of the two. Maybe it’s something else.

I do not want to beat myself up too much considering the fact that a year ago I had never written an article besides in my high school paper. I have learned so much in just a year about the field of journalism. I’m comparing myself with my co-workers who have years of experience in the field. I’m also comparing myself with my fellow intern, who has had much more college experience than I have had so far.

In fact, I think the real problem is that I’m putting too much pressure on myself. I feel like I have such a limited time to….perfect my skills. I’ve said time and time again that I don’t want to be a perfectionist but I think with all the success I’ve had in the past year it got to my head. I started expecting instant success if I show up and put in some effort. Now I’m working with professionals, not students. I’ve only leveled up. I’m not a level 70 wizard yet. I need to realize that I’m just a beginner and it will be a long time before I’m a great journalist. It’s only an internship. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain from it. I consider myself lucky to have gotten such a competitive internship especially considering I turned in the application hours before the deadline.

Hours before the deadline. Such a life of a reporter.

Now I have yet another deadline. I have three weeks before this internship is over. I’m tired and burnt out but I intend to switch on the afterburners and give it my all. I don’t want to be regarded as the average intern. I want see a marked improvement in my skills no matter how small they are.

During my orientation one of the directors said something profound to the 10 or so interns in the room. He said we were all selected because we had talent. He also said that if we walk into this internship as if we know everything already we will fail. He said to gather to full experience of this internship you must act as if you know nothing.

I haven’t forgotten that advice and I never will. I know that I must take my lumps. It’s been hard. It will continue to be hard but eventually one day things will start clicking. The point I’m trying to make is sometimes you just have to just admit as beginner you suck and it might be a long time before you get better. The tricky part is to not get discouraged and maintain that belief through the rough times.


Never Give Up


Once again I apologize for not updating my blog as frequently as I would like to. It really has been a crazy quarter for me so far. I have had a lot of things happen to me, some terrific…and some not so terrific. I wanted to sum up the past month of events and cover a very important topic: no matter the obstacle, no matter how impossible something looks, never give up.

Towards the end of March I received an e-mail from my school. It was a department-wide e-mail about a scholarship. It was called the Greenwood Integrity Scholarship. It is a scholarship, created by a local couple, given out to juniors in the department that would pay for their whole senior year. The winner didn’t need a 4.0 GPA,  have to be a certain race, or be left-handed to win it. All you had to do was write a five-page paper that answers the question: What makes you qualified for the 2012 Greenwood Integrity Scholarship?

            This scholarship had my name all over it. After the events of the past year this scholarship was perfect for me. The problem: the deadline was in a couple of days. Being a college student, writing a five-page paper on limited time isn’t a problem but it happened to be final exam week and spring break just was around the corner. Adding to the difficulty, I had to get three of my instructors to evaluate me. Initially, I thought about forgetting about it and just moving on with my life.

            Then something came over me. I have missed out on so many opportunities in my life simply because I was too scared to try. In the past year I actually took risks and they paid off. I left my dead-end job for a temporary position. Now I’m hired on permanently, making way more money than I was, and it’s the best job I’ve ever had. In the winter, I applied for a highly competitive summer internship despite barely making the deadline. I had to go there and hand off my application personally and in time I ended up getting the internship. After those two decisions that I made that completely changed my life for the better I’m about to take the lazy route now? This was simply something that I had to do. For myself.

            So I wrote the essay. It was like writing this blog. I told them all about the past year. How I am a completely changed man as a result of my experiences. In fact, I think if it wasn’t for the blog I couldn’t have written the easy. I wrote like I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, because really I did. The paper was the easy part. The hard part was running around the school getting evaluations from my professors and, more importantly, making sure they were sent in before the deadline. To make matters worse, one of my professors just got a job in Florida so he had to fax in my evaluation. I wasn’t sure if it was all going to work out. There were definitely times where I wanted to give up but I kept on going. Finally I got it done and turned it in hours before the deadline. I mean it when I say that I didn’t really care if I won the money or not. I was just happy that I made the extra effort despite the fact that it was final exam week and I wanted nothing more than to just kick back and get a head start to my spring break.

            A couple of weeks passed and then one day I received another e-mail. It was from the head of the department inviting me to the department awards ceremony. I was shocked. Could it be? Did I actually win it? I wasn’t sure. The winner was to be announced at the ceremony. Needless to say, it consumed my mind for the next couple of weeks.

            Finally the day had come. The awards ceremony was impressive. There had to be around 100 people in attendance. They announced all of the various award winners. They would come up receive their awards and sit back down. The ceremony lasted about two hours. The final event on the program was the announcement of the Greenwood Integrity Scholarship. By then I was incredibly nervous. The Greenwoods walked on stage. They were a wonderful couple. They explained the details of the scholarship and why they choose who they did. At last, the moment of truth had come and with the words “Andrew Mundhenk” my life changed forever. For the first time in my life, I had won an award. My senior year was paid for! I couldn’t believe it! They quoted highlights of my paper to the audience and I even received a standing ovation from the crowd. I was speechless. I didn’t know how to react. I just stood there. Nothing like this had ever happen to me. Even to this day I can’t get over it. To think that I was seconds away to placing that e-mail in the trash.

            This experience forever solidified my belief in being persistent and never giving up.  Don’t let anything or anyone get the way of bettering yourself, especially your own self. It’s easy to say, “There’s no chance I’ll win” or, “Write a five-page paper and get three professors to evaluate me? During the last week of school? That’s way too much work.” It’s easy to settle for instant gratification instead of putting in the extra effort. However it will be a lot easier to look back five years from now and know that I gave it my all rather than living with regret.

            Winning a scholarship with integrity in the name does not mean that I am a perfect person. I still have a long way to go and obviously I will never be perfect. I’m not trying to be. I’m not trying to boast my achievements on here. I wouldn’t have won it without the trails that I’ve been through in the past year and the support of my friends and family, especially the latter. I just hope that I can be an example of someone who takes up a challenge that may or may not pay off and put 100% effort into it. I have failed many times before. I’ve had numerous job and scholarship applications get shot down. I’m more than sure that I will have plenty more in the future. The important thing is that you remain persistent and never give up. Laziness has run amok in this culture and it’s easy to succumb to it. Just remember this: you only have one life. Do you want to spend your time living it or watching it?