Tag Archives: success

Full Circle


Roundabout traffic sign

It’s funny how some things can only be seen through the rear view mirror.

I remember taking the trip down for the interview. I was 23 at the time so had plenty of driving experience, but nothing could really prepare me for the Appalachian Mountains.

It rained the entire way and I was at the will of a GPS that chose to take me through the backwoods. Going up the mountains in a downpour was a struggle in my little Ford Focus, going down was worse. Spinning out in any situation is bad, but along a mountain side the stakes are a little higher. It was one of the very few times I’ve actually feared for my life.

Eventually I meandered my way into North Carolina. By then it was dark and still raining, but I trudged on to Spruce Pine. Despite being a town of 2,000, I couldn’t figure my way around town. Everything was closed and no one was on the road. Finally I managed to reach my destination, the Pine Valley Motel. I was wondering if had made a huge mistake.

I awoke to a clear skies and finally saw the mountains that the rain and darkness had been hiding from me. But I couldn’t dwell on them too long because I had an interview to attend although I’d hardly call it that. My soon to be boss took me around the county and practically warned me about what I’d be signing up for. I think he was just impressed I drove all the way down.

After the interview I walked through downtown Spruce Pine, which consists of two streets, Upper and Lower. It’s a quirky town. I think people either love it or hate it. Eating lunch at the renowned Knife and Fork restaurant (Google it) I became the former.

The rest is history. I took the job. I became the only reporter covering a county of 15,000. I took pictures during the county’s numerous annul festivals, I covered the ups and down of high school sports, I covered everything from local government to crime. I made mistakes, I learned and made new mistakes.

Slowly I not only learned my new job, but also about a new community, region and way of life. Throughout that entire time I didn’t think I was doing anything special. In fact, I thought I was doing a pretty subpar job.

Last fall I made that same trip to North Carolina on my way back from Thanksgiving in Ohio, two weeks prior to accepting my new job. Once again it rained the entire time, maybe even worse than my first trip. But this time I wasn’t scared, I was simply heading home.

That’s when it hit me, what i had done two years ago. I, shy and awkward Andrew Mundhenk, left everything and everyone I knew on a whim for a chance in North Carolina. Not only to North Carolina, but to a town of about 2,000 people. Who does that? Certainly not many 20-somethings I know.

I’m not going to lie. It wan’t easy. Not surprisingly, there’s not too many people my age living in Spruce Pine and even less to do in the way of entertainment. The loneliness was crippling at times. Nothing replaces home.

I see the experience as a gift now. I truly learned how to live by myself. I’m not talking about learning how to pay the bills and cook food. I mean truly learning how to live with yourself. It’s not something everyone can do, which is why there’s so many people stuck in miserable relationships. They’re afraid of being alone. I’m not.

Between that time and now I’ve gotten a new job at a bigger paper and now live in Asheville, which has a little bit more going on to say the least. According to my new boss, part of the reason I got the job was because she impressed with my apparent maturity to move away from home and stick it out in a small town for a couple years. Asheville is where I’ve wanted to live since I first stopped in two years ago. I’m ready to take on the next chapter of my life and all the challenges it’s now throwing at me. There are many.

But I will never forget my time in Spruce Pine and Mitchell County. I’ve never lived in a place where everyone knows you and you know everyone. I take pride knowing that a 20-something-year-old Yankee came down to a small town in the south and was able to tell what’s going on in their community.

As a closing note I’d encourage anyone who has lived in the same place their entire life to take a chance and leave if possible. SO many people I know said they were going to leave Ohio only to stay put and root in.

I’m not saying Ohio sucks and the only way to be happy in life is to leave your hometown. Moving makes you appreciate what you had and what you have. I hold it to be a necessary step in becoming a well-rounded individual, but what do I know.

I’ve made many mistakes in life and continue to do so, but taking the leap was not one of them.


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.


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!


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?