30 March 2010

Three Cups, Three Lessons

This Red Bull Rising post is the second of three regarding Greg Mortenson's book, "Three Cups of Tea."

Gen. David Petraeus says the main points of this book are:
Number one, we need to listen more.
Number two, we need to have respect.
Number three, we have to build relationships.
I know a couple of my buddies have been struggling both to find the time to read "Three Cups of Tea," but also to make sense of it. Not that it's a confusing book, mind you, it's just slow to reveal itself and its quiet truths. That's probably part of the message: Slow down, soldier. Not everything can happen in a New York Minute. Or even an Iowa one.

I thought I'd offer a few citations here, so that my buddies might be able to trace how Petraeus got what he got from the book. I still recommend reading the entire book, of course. But, after doing so, I hope that they might return to a few pages before and after those cited below, to reflect a little more on Petraeus's bullets. The page numbers are from the 2006 Penguin paperback edition.

No. 1: Listen More
"Perhaps he had been too harsh with these people. The economic disparity between them was simply too great. Could it be that even a partially employed American who lived out of a storage locker could seem like little more than a flashing neon dollar sign to people in the poorest region of one of the world's poorest countries? He resolved that, should the people of Korphe engage in another tug of war for his wealth, such as it was, he would be more patient. He would hear them all out, eat as many meals as necessary, before insisting that the school should benefit all, rather than enrich the headman Haji Ali, or anything." (p. 95)

"Doctor Greg, [...] enough talking. How can you know what the people need if you don't ask them?" (p. 219)
No. 2: Have respect.
"The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die [...] Doctor Greg, you must take time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated. But we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time." (p. 150)
No. 3: Build relationships.
"You went alone! [...] You didn't seek the hospitality of a village chief! If you learn only on thing from me, learn this lesson well: Never go anywhere in Pakistan alone." (p. 177)

"Ever since then, with all the schools I've built, I've remember Haji Ali's advice and expanded slowly, from village to village and valley to valley, going where we'd already built relationships, instead of trying to hopscotch to places I had no contacts, like Wasiristan." (p. 177)
Tomorrow, I'll discuss one or two of Mortenson's themes that go beyond Petraeus's points ...


  1. Sherpa - Your sense of timing is absolutely on point!

    Did you know that Greg Mortenson is in Chicago this Saturday for the annual fund-raising event to support his organization - Central Asia Institute? (https://www.ikat.org/cai-annual-fundraiser/)

    Your "next-door" neighbor, fellow citizen-soldier & milblogger, Jeff Courter, is planning a long and treacherous trek all the way from Chicago Heights to Chicago Hyatt Regency O'Hare this weekend, in hopes of exchanging perspectives on Afghanistan with Greg.

    If Jeff wins an audience with Greg I'm sure he'll blog about it at www.afghanistan-journal.com/blog. We'll share notes/insights with you offline, too, if you're interested.

    ALSO, on Jeff's behalf, thanks for your astute analysis! As you know, he agrees wholeheartedly that need to LISTEN, RESPECT & BUILD RELATIONSHIPS is absolutely central to long-term success in Afghanistan.

    That's been very much on Jeff's mind this week (and hopefully, others in the country are sharing those thoughts), in the wake of President Obama's visit with the troops last weekend. Actually, Jeff blogged a bit about that today...

    You guys are like two little Guard peas in a pod! Or would that be Bulls in a Pen? (Pardon my failure to find a more suitable metaphor - but you get the point!)

    Anywho, I'll be back.
    Just wanted to connect the dots!

  2. @ KKruse: That's great news! I wish I could wrangle time to attend myself! I can't wait to get Jeff's take on both the event, and how things are going for the Central Asia Institute currently ...

    I am also going to steal your "two bulls in a pen" metaphor at the first appropriate opportunity!


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