Category Archives: success

The difference a year makes


What a year in weeklies  looks like.

What a year in weeklies looks like.

On August 5th, 2014 a young Midwesterner came to the southern Appalachian Mountains fresh out of college to start off what he hoped to be a successful writing career.

The first couple of months were a blur of course. After spending the last 23 years of his sheltered life under his parents roof, he was now juggling how to write articles and take photos on top of learning about the downside of student loans, how to balance a budget, how to “cook” and …

I could spend this time telling you the entire story but I think that would be rather boring. After all what I did was nothing special, but I’m still proud of the fact I made it a whole year on my own considering where I started.

The truth is I wish my past year was the fairy tale story about the rookie reporter who came to town and unearthed some deep seated corruption, but it was nothing of the sort. In fact, it was probably the exact opposite. Needless to say I got a serious wake up call from many departments of realty.

Obviously in the past year I’ve learned a lot about being a reporter: learning how to write, taking printable photos, finding out what’s newsworthy, developing sources etc. I’m well aware it will take a long time before I am a master of my craft. More importantly, however, I’ve learned some more important lessons not just about work, but life in general.

Not the least of which is how to take a proper beating to your ego. Naively I entered the job thinking I would have some sort of small town celebrity status by being the reporter and a northerner. Hahaha, that didn’t exactly come to fruition the same way it did in my mind. I’ve never considered myself as a guy with a big ego but opening my writing up to the public firing squad for critique did sting a bit.

This past year I can say I’ve dealt with a lot of growing pains with very little, if any, signs of reward from it. I felt as if every time I did something good I got a kick to the crotch from something else that put me right back down. Every time I needed a moral victory I just couldn’t get it. It was incredibly frustrating to say the least.

The give up button was dangling right in front of my face. I missed my friends and family (still do) and my continued frustrations only added kindling. The feeling would come and go, each time stronger than the last. It would’ve been so easy to just throw in the towel.

But I didn’t give up. I somehow said no to the beast every time. Enduring the growing pains has only made me a better as a journalist and reporter. The only way to get better is through failure and by giving up on this job I would’ve gave up any hope of living a life not dictated by fear as so many people do.

Lately I’ve had to do something I’ve never really done in my life: believe in myself. I’ve had to believe I’m doing the right thing and that one day will be my day. As long as I’m putting in the work to better myself, no matter how smaller an improvement, the opinions of others don’t matter.

Looking back I can say I’m a better person than I was a year ago. I’m more humbled for sure but my willpower and confidence are better than ever before. In fact, confidence was a foreign concept to me before I took the step to leave everything I had ever known and loved to start a brand new life. Now I feel unbreakable. The worst is over and nothing is going to stop me.

It is my belief success is really just having a strong work ethic combined with the will not to give up. It just takes time.

Here’s to another year.

Advertisements

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.


Never Lose Sight of Your Goals


“Be prepared to start at a small place. Take it and do it and do your very best. Always do your very very best work and have a very high bar. Be willing to work long hours and show that you care enough to do these stories, don’t watch the clock. Be willing to work in small places and work your way up. Be patient, and just do your very very best work. Never lose sight of your goals.”

Advice a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist gave to be about a year ago while I was still in school. It was part of a class project we had to do where we had to interview an expert in our field for their advice entering whatever career path we were about to take. I stumbled upon it while looking through old files on my computer and, honestly, the reminder could not have come at a better time.

Frustration would probably be the best word to describe my life recently. The feeling where I’m putting in the work and the sacrifices but I’m not seeing the results. Maybe the results are there, but they are so small they are hard to see with all the other issues, errors and setbacks.

I didn’t post this to complain about my life, quite the opposite. I believe frustrating times like this are what truly make a person. I believe true success is measured by your response when your back is against the wall, when there’s no signs of success to be found. Sure I like to reflect on my meager successes so far in my young life, but I wouldn’t be that person without the dark times. I understand I have to take the hits in order to reap the rewards. I also realize it’s going to take a long time to get to that point. A frustrating but true fact of life. After researching various figures in history who were masters at their craft, I see they weren’t born with some special talent, they worked hard and failed again and again.

At the same time I can also see how far I’ve grown from that point. Listening to the interview I could hear how nervous I was, talking at a speed of 100 miles an hour and feeling as if I was wasting his time. Listening to my side of the interview was completely cringeworthy, but my hope is some day I’ll sound like the other guy.


New Year’s Resolution 2013


2013

Following through with one New Year’s resolution is a great accomplishment and I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to do it two years in a row. My resolution in 2011 was to leave McDonald’s and get a new job which kicked off a “rebirth” of sorts in my life and overall attitude. In 2012, I made it my New Year’s resolution to improve my social skills. A very vague goal that was hard to measure but after reporting for two papers in the past year I clearly overcame my social anxiety and I’m now capable at having a conversation with a complete stranger. Still have a lot of work to do but I feel a lot more confident in my overall presence and demeanor.

This was definitely one of if not the best year of my life. I saw the West Coast for the first time, wrote for not one but two regional newspapers and won a full year’s scholarship based not on academics or ethnicity but on integrity. I think I’ve learned more and experienced more than I have ever had at any other point in my life. I still have much more to achieve but it’s hard to look back at 2012 and not be proud of things I did accomplish. Sure I’ve done some things that can be observed on paper but I feel I’ve grown a lot more on the inside than anything else.

So going into 2013 I wanted to make a resolution that wouldn’t be obvious (like getting a job after I graduate because that’s obviously everyone’s goal) but also not too vague. After reading many books and researching the habits of some of the most successful people in history I’ve determined the belief that your thoughts dictate your actions is true. I need to adjust my goals and habits to achieve a better life instead of making goals to avoid a bad one. For example, I need to set my goals towards getting a job or living on my own rather making it a goal to avoid going into debt or living with my mom for the rest of my life (no offense mom). If you think something, no matter if it is a in positive or negative light, it will most likely become a reality.

My New Year’s resolution for 2013 is to have a positive mindset. I’ve slowly been evolving towards this mindset for a while now. At first, it started as simply catching myself every time I was in a grumpy or bad mood, realizing how ridiculous I was acting, and turned my attitude around. When I woke up on the “wrong side of the bed” I used to allow myself to let that dictate the rest of my day. Now I don’t. Two important parts to this is, one, being grateful for everything I have. Reading the news, observing other people’s lives makes me thankful for what I do have. I can’t remember the last time I felt jealous of someone. Instead, if I desire a trait or an item a person has I work towards getting it. I think jealously is one of the most disgusting traits a person can have. It’s true some people were dealt a better hand but I know everyone reading this didn’t get the handful of jokers. The other thing is simply not caring what other people think about me. Of course, I take what others say that are close to me to heart but I no longer let them dictate my actions. I don’t let random strangers dictate my actions and I for damn sure don’t allow them to spread their negativity on me anymore.

So now I hope to continue this trend and take it one step further. No more self-put downs, no more saying “I can’t” or “I’ll never get a job in the field of journalism.” I will also continue my life goal of becoming the best human being I can possibly become. Good luck to everyone else in achieving their own New Year’s Resolutions.


Goals for Fall


I’m ready to get back up and fight for what I want.

I’m finally back after another long hiatus. I enjoyed my trip to California and have one week of school behind me. I’m also in a much better state than I was in my last post. I realized that I need to make some change in my life. I wanted to take this time to write down some of the goals I have for the fall semester as well as for the remainder of the year. I divided them up into three categories: school goals, new habits, and skills I want to improve on.

School Goals

Get A’s in all my classes.

I’m sure I’m not the only person that shares this goal. This one is pretty self-explanatory. There is no reason why I can’t get a 4.0 this semester, other than laziness.

Look into graduate school.

I think this might be a long shot but I don’t want to say it’s impossible. It’s more of a question of finding a way to pay for it than anything. It would be nice to stay in school for another two years and hone my skills but it would also be nice to give the workforce a shot. I’m on the fence but one thing is for sure. I don’t want to enter the workforce without at least giving graduate school serious consideration. If there ever was a time to go for it now would be it.

New Habits

Read…beyond homework.

I’ve added a new section to the blog labeled recommended books. The list is small right now but it will continue to grow over time. I’ve really been wanting to get back into reading. I haven’t read religiously since middle school. I started back up this spring. Surprisingly, it was pretty rough at first. I couldn’t concentrate and it took me forever to read a page. Now I can already tell my reading skills have increased and even to some extent my writing ability. I’m trying to focus my attention on books about self-improvement, life, etc. I want to expand my knowledge. Not everything has to be learned by a teacher in a classroom.

Eat right.

For about the past year I would say on average I eat out almost everyday. Not only is this expensive but it is also not very healthy. I wouldn’t say I eat like garbage every time I do eat out but I know I need to change my eating habits. This will probably be the hardest habit to break as my school and work schedule make it very hard to cook. I started reading The Ultramind Solution by Mark Hyman. The book talks about the importance of the food we put in our bodies and how it effects everything in the body including the brain. After I read the book I hope to have a basis for a better diet plan.

Meditate

I’ve been meditating for fifteen minutes every morning for the past couple of days. It’s something that I do need to work on but so far I’ve been sticking to it. I do feel some marked improvement in my attention as well as other areas. The important thing for me right now is to develop a habit of meditating everyday, no exceptions.

Skills I Want to Improve

  • Confidence
  • Agressiveness
  • Networking
  • Communication
  • Speech

And Most Importantly…

Take action!

None of these will happen if I sit around and dream them to become true. I’ve got to work on achieving them every day.

Good luck to everyone on achieving your own goals!


Limbo


I finished my internship at the News-Sun a little over two weeks ago and I’ve been “enjoying” the remainder of my summer break. I would like to say that I did finish off strong like had I set out to do in my previous post. I had four articles published in my final week, one of which made the front page. Nevertheless, I know I have a ton of work to do before I’m hireable. I need to work on my aggressiveness (no surprise there) as well as my speed.

I felt a strange feeling after it was all over though. It felt like the end. For the past year I had stepped closer and closer towards my goal, first in my introductory journalism class in the fall to freelancing  in a real newspaper in winter and spring to having a paid internship. Now it’s all over. I’m not stepping higher, just plateauing. All I’m doing in the fall is going to school and working on the weekends. That’s it. The reasonable side of me tells me to write for the school paper or find another small paper but for some reason I can’t bring myself to do it. I think the reason I’m telling myself  not to is because I’ll be so busy with work and school I won’t have time though? Is this true? Or am I just coming up with excuses? I want to be everything I can be but at the same time I just want to be a normal college kid for once, one who goes to parties, drinks, etc.

So for the past two weeks I feel as if I’ve been stuck in limbo. I’ve been confused, depressed, and thinking about everything non-stop. I’ve also been a sponge, using the time to catch up on reading and gathering information online. I just finished The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. It’s a great book and I would strongly recommend it. My uncle gave me the book after he read my blog. After reading it I think I may have discovered my issue:

I want to be miserable again.

I’ve done a lot this past year and achieved a lot, more so than I ever have in my life. Why on Earth do I feel this way? Consciously I don’t want that but part of me occasionally wants to go back to the way I was. Life was simpler back then. I could sit in my comfort zone in front of my computer and spend the day away doing nothing. I’m having an seemingly eternal battle between my conservative self and my ambitious self. I’ve been having this battle for over a year seeing as the conservative side previously swept my ambitious side for years.

I guess you could say my fear is that my conservative side is making a comeback and I think this time if it comes back it will be back for good. Peck says in his book that laziness is the evil that keeps us from becoming great and that we must fight this urge of laziness constantly our entire lives like a boat going upstream.

Today, I leave Ohio to spend my final week of vacation in California. I’ve never flown nor have I been to the West Coast. I don’t think this trip could’ve came at a better time in my life. I hope the new experiences and new scenery rejuvenate my ambition. I’m hope in California I can find some of the answers that I’m looking for.


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.