Climbing a different mountain

Greg Mortensen
One of my heroes is Greg Mortenson, the author of “Three Cups of Tea,” the story of a mountain climber who learns to reach for the top of a different peak.  It may be part of my INFP nature, but I am drawn to stories where the hero achieves maximum “save the world” effect in situations of dire need. 

Greg’s story starts with a failed attempt to summit K2, the second highest mountain in the world. On his descent he stumbles into the village of Korphe in Pakistan, where he has an epiphany about what his life’s work should be.  With typical American bravado, he promises to return to these engaging people and build them a school. His route to fulfill that promise is circuitous, but after a year of challenges he eventually builds that first school.

This achievement is astounding, and as an introvert I am doubly impressed because the key to his success turns out to be learning how to communicate with the diverse tribes in this very risky area.  He talked his way into victory!

Since then Greg and his Central Asia Institute have built and outfitted 131 schools in the most remote and dangerous regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, educating over 58,000 students, most of them girls.  Even the U.S. military acknowledges his expertise in the region, and he has acted as a non-paid consultant to help forge trusting relationships with the tribes. 

His new book is called “Stones into Schools” and in it I found a wonderful description of how Greg views his personality.  Keep in mind that at the writing of this book Greg had "made 680 appearances in more than 270 cities, all in a three year period."  As you can imagine he spends more time presenting to large groups of people than most of us. 

Yet he is “an incorrigible introvert.” He does not enjoy the activities required of the spokesperson for a global non-profit foundation.  Instead he says, “I dream of privacy, revere silence, and I loathe any action that involves drawing attention to myself.

“Given these facts, the duties of speaking, promoting, and fund-raising into which I have been thrust during the last several years have often made me feel like a man caught in the act of conducting an illicit affair with the dark side of his own personality.“

We could argue that there really is no dark and light side to introversion or extraversion, but I find it comforting to know that a person who so deeply identifies with introversion can manifest such clearly out of preference behavior in such a wildly successful manner.
Perhaps there is hope for me after all.  Time to start climbing.


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