Lance Morgan is the chief executive officer of Ho-Chunk Inc, the economic development corporation of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. HCI owns Indianz.Com and AlNative.Com. The following represents his opinion.
I was thinking about a conversation I had once with a person who was acknowledging that they had failed to finish something again. It was kind of a pitiful thing. They admitted their latest failure, but did it with a practiced internal pain. The kind of pain where it seemed hard to admit and done while looking down slightly. I think they wanted me to acknowledge that they felt bad and that it was ok again to have failed.
But what I was really thinking was that this person has become an actual Loser. I am not talking about Loser in the way you would say it as an insult. I am talking about Loser as in actually losing a lot or failing to finish things. I am talking about losing a series of jobs, failing out of school several times, or failing to finish anything that you start.
What is frustrating is so many of us do lose a lot and it becomes a habit that is hard to break. But it happens so often that it has become almost acceptable socially. In fact, winning too much is viewed as suspicious. We have such modest expectations for ourselves that we actually question success far more than failure. Failure we understand. After 150 years under the thumb of the system, we have lowered our expectations for ourselves and anyone going beyond that makes us look bad, so “they must be up to something.” “They must have changed.” Or my personal favorite, “They are trying to be white now.” But ask yourself this question: If winning is white then what does being Indian mean? Being Indian can’t mean that.
I have noticed people that lose a lot need to still feel good about themselves so they come up with the next thing they are going to do and want some credit, but really it feels a lot like an another excuse. “I can’t get a job now, cuz I am going back to school next semester.” “I had to quit that job because they hated Indians or were out to get me.” “I had to quit school cuz my grandma was sick.” I can assure you grandma would want you to finish school.
We need to break this cycle and find ways to start winning more than we lose. Achievement takes more than wanting something or wanting someone to give you something. Winning takes effort and perseverance. You can’t achieve anything if you quit as soon as something gets tough. Too bad making excuses, blaming others and rationalizing failure isn’t a profession. Some of us would be millionaires.
The reservation also acts as a huge safety net for people. There is always a place to stay and you can always get enough food or support to get by. We have made it very easy to give up and just get by in life. But living off a woman or on government aid shouldn’t be a way of life. This is a slightly different subject, but I am particularly amazed and embarrassed by how many of our young men do not work at all, but live with a single mom or at home with their mother.
We need to know when to push ourselves to do what it takes in life to be a good parent, worker, or student. We need to show our kids that they need to work hard and that no matter how good your excuse, quitting isn’t acceptable. We need to promote and acknowledge success, not question it. Once we do these things, all our lives will get better faster and we can get back to being the people we are destined to be. We are in fact better off than most reservations I visit, so we have already begun. We just need to keep pushing because we still got a lot of winning to do to get us back to where we should be a people.