Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Wed, Oct. 28

Succeeding at failure or failing at success?

There is a puzzling question I came across one weekend while surfing the Internet. The question asked simply, "If you try to fail and succeed, which have you really done?"

Mirriam Webster's online dictionary put it quite succinctly-it defined "failure" literally as "the lack of success." Wow! I'd never have guessed that in a million years!

As I lay in bed that night (actually, it was around three in the morning), I wondered to myself, "Hmmm, what does it really mean to fail? What does it really mean to succeed?" Of course, being that there are many different people in this world who come from many different backgrounds, there will likely be many different answers to this one seemingly simple question.

So rather than try to interpret the myriad plausible answers of millions and millions of people, I'll just tell you what I think it means to fail and to succeed and let you figure it all out for yourselves. It doesn't matter if you agree with me or not because there's really no right or wrong answer to this question, folks!

Throughout my life, I have seen and experienced my fair share of what can be perceived as successes and failures on many different levels. But regardless of their categorization as successes or failures, I feel that what makes a success a success (or for that matter, what makes a failure a failure) depends almost entirely on how you see the experience to begin with and what (if anything) you gain out of it.

For example, as I lay sleepless in bed at 3 a.m. in the morning, one person might surmise that I had failed at achieving restful slumber while another could say that I had succeeded in coming to a defining moment in my own personal enlightenment.

So what do I say? The way I see it, I simply couldn't sleep that night and was lying there listening to the hum of the refrigerator and thinking about whether or not I should slap on a pair of headphones and listen to some music on my iPod! Could that be seen as success or failure? I'm not certain as I failed to answer my own question and eventually succeeded at going back to sleep. So again, one's perception of success of failure depends on how you look at the situation.

Take former Vice-President Al Gore, for example. His loss to President George W. Bush during the 2000 presidential election could easily be looked at as a failure. However, Gore himself didn't seem to see it that way. While he was miffed at having lost that very close election to the now infamous series of blunders that forever cemented the term "hanging chad" in the annals of American history, Gore did what any person who invented the Internet would have done...he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and completely reinvented himself with his newfound stance against the threat of global warming, and became an infamous overnight sensation after the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" came out.

So was that a success? Was it a failure? Al Gore would probably say that he was nothing more than a "successful failure," which brings us right back to Square One. My somewhat confusing answer notwithstanding, success (or failure) is no more dependent on its given definition than a dog depends on fleas.

That almost begs the question, "Does a dog need fleas in order to be a dog?" I'll let you all chew on that bone for a while...

Wells Mahkee Jr., a self-proclaimed "rez boy" from Zuni Pueblo, N. M., is the current managing editor of the Navajo Hopi Observer. He can be reached at 928-226-9696, ext. 5 or by e-mail at

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