Tag Archives: action

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.

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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.


Three Months


Linville Gorge looking towards table rock.

Linville Gorge looking towards table rock.

 

I can’t believe it’s been three months since I left home. Since then I’ve covered everything from a power company’s controversial use of herbicides along power lines to folklore tales of legendary mysterious lights seen in this very gorge. I’ve also been able to explore a whole new region of the country. I miss home like crazy but I know what I’m doing is right and there is no turning back.

There are certainly times when I feel like a fish out of water, try all the time actually. With a name like Mundhenk I pretty much scream that I’m clearly not from around here. Things are different here but I’m glad I get to see another side of things, a new culture. I hope I can be a positive impact as a member in this new community.

There are many things I’ve surprised myself with what I’ve been able to do within this short time span, not least of which is the simple fact I’ve survived three months. I treat this like a milestone because it really is. I’ve made it through the roughest part I feel. The initial homesickness, the strange new world. I’ve also learned a lot about myself in the process. How to live alone, how to manage a budget, how to do all the little things my mommy and daddy used to do for me. What has impressed me the most though is walking into a subject I’m covering that I’m completely clueless about and by the time I’m done I’ve learned something completely new. I’ve walked into a story plenty of times wondering how on Earth I’m I going to do this and have somehow managed to do it.

Make no mistake. I’ve had several frustrations and growing pains and continue to do so on a daily basis. My goal for the first three months was to simply make it to this point. Now I’m ready to step up a bit more. I feel like I’ve reached a plateau, and I hate plateaus. I want to step up my interviewing and writing skills even further. I want to crawl out of my shell just a little bit more. I want to follow in the steps of past reporters who have worked here and gone on to do big things. I have so much potential here and It’s up to me to make the most out of this opportunity.

Just have to continue to trust the process.


Why I Became a Reporter


On the way to Mt. Mitchell

On the way to Mt. Mitchell

Throughout my life lots of people have asked me what I want to major in or what career I want to go into. However, I don’t think anyone has ever asked me why I wanted to become a reporter, and if they did I probably didn’t answer them honestly.

Sure there’s lots of reasons as to why I became a reporter. I like learning and understanding new ideas, people and concepts. I’m genuinely interested in informing people on what’s going on in the community. I also like to write and generate content that people want to see. But one reason really trumps all the rest.

It forces me to confront my greatest fears.

My general social anxiety. My fear of confrontation. My lack of assertiveness. All are directly addressed being a reporter. It’s no secret for those who know me that I’m a shy guy. As I’ve said before I’m not ashamed to be an introvert but there’s a difference between being quiet and avoiding social confrontation due to fear. I am a firm believer that if you aren’t facing your fears you truly aren’t living at all. Looking back most of the major milestones in my life I walked into them fear and hesitation but did it anyway.

It’s not just about my social fears though. I never let the constant, almost daily news I heard of reporters being laid off and newspapers shrinking dissuade me. I didn’t give into a more stable career. I didn’t look at the employment numbers or the money. I didn’t listen to the little online surveys that determine what career would best fit my personality. In fact, most surveys said the last field I should go into is journalism. I knew what I wanted to do and I wasn’t going to let anybody or anything stop me from doing it. I have to believe if I’m constantly developing my skills and moving with the times that I will remain employed. If not, at least I tried.

This is truly what I want to do and I feel. I hope to one day become an investigate reporter. I want to do something to better the world no matter how small it is. I do know though it’s going to take some effort on my part. I have to come out of my shell but I’ve already seen a large improvement in the two months that I’ve kicked off my career. I’m excited to see how far I’ve developed a year from now.

It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. I have a lot to learn and it will likely take a long time to be the type of reporter and person I want to be. I’m not judging anyone’s lifestyle but I have seen so many people in my life with such potential only to see it pissed away. I applaud anyone who takes a chance and pursues what they truly want in life.

Having a big salary, big house with the picket fence, wife and kids, and job security is nice but I would like to think there are other ways to live a satisfying life. Entering an “evolving” field only makes me more determined to work harder.


The Ultimate Leap of Faith


Bakersville, NC

My new home.

A lot has happened since the last time I’ve posted.

I put my money where my mouth was. I proved that I love my fear. I picked up everything I’ve owned and known in Ohio and accepted a newspaper job in beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina.

I’m a week in so far and I can already tell it’s going to be a great experience for me. I’m learning how to take photos and cover a variety of different topics from sports to hard news. I also realize I have a long way to go before I become a successful journalist. Hopefully the paper puts up with me until then.

I always knew I wanted to leave Ohio. Not because it’s a bad state but because I wanted to see another part of the country. It’s one thing to say I wanted to move but when the time actually came for me to follow though it got hard. While it may be easy for some it was hell for me. Leaving all my friends and family, leaving the only place I’ve ever known. But while making the decision I saw two distinct paths: one where I stay in my comfort zone for the rest of my mediocre life and the other where I take a chance and realize my dream of exploring new areas, meeting new people and learning a new culture.

I needed this. I needed to be ripped out of Ohio before my roots grew too deep in my comfort zone. I felt like if I didn’t take this leap of faith now why would I do it when the next big situation came up, or next one or the one after that.

When making some of the greatest decisions in my life I have always been seconds away from wanting to pull the plug but somehow I managed to convince myself to push though. It’s almost like the more you fear something it’s all the more reason you need to do it. It’s still too soon to determine what this decision holds in store for me, but all that matters to me is that I took a chance, I didn’t give into fear and I followed through with what I felt would be good for me.

Of course I would be a lair if I said I did it alone. There is no way I could’ve done this without the almost unanimous support of my family, friends and former professors. I feel so grateful to have such a strong support group.

I know what I did wasn’t amazing or something that no one else has ever done before. I’m also not saying everyone who chooses to stay home is a coward. I just hope my experience can serve as a small example to those who are afraid of moving out of their comfort zone, even though doing so could be the best thing that has ever happened to them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m suffering from homesickness more than I ever thought I would. I just hope and know that it will get better with time.

I plan to update this blog more often for my friends and family back home and for my followers as well.


My 10 Best Traits


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I sincerely apologize again for my lack of updates. I recently graduated, moved out on my own and have had a terrible case of writer’s block. I told myself that I would not fill this blog with fluff just for the sake of posting something and I stick by it. This blog is about quality not quantity.

Honestly I’ve been going through a lot lately and been thinking about a lot of things.  Of course, I’m not going through what many college graduates are enduring: the job search. For now I’m just embracing this period and treating as a summer vacation of sorts. I still have my full-time job which is good and all and I’m thankful for it but it’s definitely not my calling. This period has definitely given me the opportunity to think about what I truly want out of life but that is a post for another day.

The ever-going battle with myself wages on. I’ve conquered a lot of personal hurdles in the past couple of years but my confidence, or should I say lack of, still remains a problem. So yesterday one of my friends gave me a “homework assignment” of sorts to help me with this problem. The assignment: Write 10 traits/characteristics that you like about yourself. It seemed like something so simple and yet it actually took some time to think about it. If someone told me to think of 10 things I don’t like about myself I could’ve probably shot them off right away without hesitation. I think that alone shows where my mindset is.

So without further adieu my 10 best traits (no particular order):

1. My Integrity- I feel this is one of my greatest strengths and something I feel others would agree I possess a great deal of. I am trustworthy, honest and take full responsibility for all my faults. I make no excuses for my actions or inaction. I also won a scholarship based on integrity so that’s gotta say something.

2. My Open-Mindset- Another thing I pride myself on, especially as an aspiring journalist. I have my own beliefs but do not push them on other people. I am curious to hear about others’ beliefs even if a avidly disagree with what they say. I do not dismiss or ignore them. Right-wing or left-wing, gay or straight, Muslim or Christian I’m as objective as possible. It is not my place to make judgements.

3. My Dependability- This goes with integrity. My friends, co-workers, bosses and family know they can count on me.

4. My Work Ethic- I’ve held numerous jobs at a time on top of going to school full-time. I’ve worked for everything I own and pride myself on it. When I have a goal and set my mind to it, I do whatever it takes to make it happen. It may not happen overnight but I hammer through it.

5. My Lack of Jealously/My Desire for Others to Succeed- I used to want to bring people down, but now I strive to help others rise. For example, I’ve helped two people get jobs in the past couple of months and it’s truly a great feeling doing so. I think jealously is one of the most disgusting traits a human being can possess.

6. My Creativity- I have always considered myself to be a creative person. However, I feel my true potential remains untapped.

7. My Flexibility- I consider myself to be a jack-of-all-trades of sorts. I’m a fast learner and have the capacity to learn about a variety of different topics, gadgets and programs.

8. My Humility- One of my strengths and also probably one of my greatest downfalls as well. People have told me I am too humble. I definitely agree, which is why I’m writing out this list. Still, I feel humility is a great trait for a person to have and something I strive for.

9. My Wit- I don’t say much, but when I do people listen. I am an observant person and I try to make light of any situation.

10. My Determination- I WILL NOT settle for less in this life. Nuff said.

Well that was a good self-esteem boost. All kidding aside, I encourage everyone to make a list of their own. Self-insight has always helped me out. It seems like I spend a majority of my time looking at my weaknesses when I should be attending to my strengths as well.

Stay tuned for more (frequent) updates.


Establishing Good Habits


If you’re interested in bettering yourself, no matter what the skill, developing good habits will be essential. Deciding that you want to change your ways is the easy part.  The hard part is obviously following through with it. That means every day. No exceptions!

How to Start

First you must establish what you want to change or what new habit you want introduced in your life. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. In fact, small changes might be easier to digest at first. Also, try to introduce only a few new habits at a time. You don’t want to be constantly shaking things up all the time. Allow the dust to settle for a little bit before taking on something new. It’s good to have a little grounding.

You might see the immediate benefits or your new habit…or you might not. The important thing is to give it a chance either way. Some habits take a while before they finally pay off.

Get Ready for Resistance

It might be easy to practice your new “habit” for the first couple of days. After a while, however, you may find that it gets harder and harder to stick to it. Eventually you start doing it every other day, then a couple of times a week and the next thing you know your back to where you started. The old habit has been ingrained in your brain for so long that it will take about a month for it to rewire itself to the new habit. In the meantime, you may find that your body and mind will throw whatever they can to resist the change. Humans are naturally habitual beings. Most of us do not like change. If you feel the change you are making is the right thing to do then it is very important to persevere no matter how tired, hungry, etc. you are. Taking one day off could mean the difference.

How to Get Past the Rough Patch

Motivation can only do so much. It comes and goes. It’s important to look at the good things that are happening as a result of the change, no matter how small they may be. For example, this fall I decided I wanted to meditate for 15 minutes every morning. At first I didn’t notice anything. Then I began to notice I was paying more attention in class. I used this as fuel to keep me going. After you start establishing new habits, it starts getting easier since you can fall back on the successes of your previous changes.

The Turning Point

At a certain point you feel the change has finally been made. Like you’ve made it over the hump. Like everything has finally clicked. Congrats! You’ve established the new habit. Now it should almost come automatic without having to think about it constantly. It’s still very important to not veer off the path. The old habit is still cemented in your brain and will be very easy to go back to.   

Start Now!

Don’t pick a defined date to start a change. You’re already setting yourself up for failure if you do so. An obvious example of this would be the endless amount of failed New Year’s Resolutions people make year after year. By putting off a change to later date you will most likely put it off again with the day does come, and so on and so on. There’s no reason to not start now.

Good luck!