Study Guide

Three Cups of Tea Perseverance

By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin


[Mortenson] spent an hour scrambling up a slope of scree, hoping for a vantage point above the boulders and icebergs, a place where he might snare the landmark he was looking for, the great rocky promontory of Urdukas, which thrust out onto the Baltoro like a massive fist, and haul himself back toward the trail. (1.19)

Whoa. We're not sure what takes more perseverance: that daring rock climb, or writing that single gigantic sentence.

Anyone who has spent time or Mortenson's presence […] would recognize this night as one more example of Mortenson's steely-mindedness. (1.24)

Mortenson's determination at hiking is a nice transferable skill on his resume, one that shows his ability to sniff out and dig up donations from anyone, anywhere, all over the world.

For six hours […] they communicated only in grunts and whimpers, dragging their friend down a dangerous technical route through the icefall of the Savoia Glacier. (1.41)

As a climber, Mortenson has to be tenacious. It's a matter of life and death, literally, when they have to rescue one of their own.

It was his body that had failed, [Mortenson] decided, not his spirit, and every body had its limits. (1.47)

Just because someone takes a break doesn't mean that they "give up." Mortenson simply changes his course; he never stops.

"If you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything." (4.22)

This is cookie cutter advice from Papa Mortenson, but it's positioned as a profound moment in Greg Mortenson's life, and part of the reason why he always perseveres for what he believes in.

During days he wasn't working, Mortenson hunted and pecked his way through hundreds of letters. He wrote to every U.S. senator. (5.14)

Even though Mortenson can't use a computer, or type, he writes out hundreds of letters to raise money. This shows incredible determination… and a bit of stupidity. Sometimes there's a fine line between the two.

Each of the coils of cable weighed eight hundred pounds and it took ten men at a time to carry the thick wood poles they threaded through the center of the spools. (10.46)

Mortenson isn't the only one determined to build schools. The residents of the villages want to build these buildings just as much, if not more so, than Mortenson does.

In this sense, Balti men weren't so different from the ibex they pursued. (10.62)

Like the ibex, the Balti men have adapted to survive at high altitudes, including harsh temperatures and dangerous landscapes. You don't have the luxury of sitting back and relaxing much when you live in a place like that.

"I felt like whatever I had to say was sort of futile. I wasn't going to change the way the Bush administration had decided to fight its wars […] so I decided to just let it rip." (21.86)

Even when the odds look impossible, Mortenson still tries. If he keeps silent, no one will hear him, but by speaking up, maybe someone, anyone, will hear about his mission and help.

"You don't understand. My class starts next week. I need money now!" (22.16)

They must teach Mortenson Perseverance 101 in the schools that he builds because Jahan isn't going to give up when she needs money to continue her education. That might be the most valuable skill they teach.

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