A path away from pride and prejudice

Editor’s note: the following is an except from a post that originally appeared on Rising Pyramid. Please click here to read the full post.

2009 was a seminal year in my life.  That was the year that I took my first step. Looking back on the path of my life, I can see clearly that I grew up dreaming of making a difference in a world that didn’t feel quite equitable—even if I didn’t understand why. My dreams shaped my choices and my choices shaped my experiences, but until 2009, I had yet to diverge. Chris and I started Rising Pyramid three years ago because we were dissatisfied with the level of difference we could make at our day jobs.

Back then, we were high-fiving when we got over 10 viewers in a day.  Reflecting back, at first, Rising Pyramid was more about us than about the outside world; we were learning and inspiring ourselves as we wrote. Three years ago when we published our first post, we pivoted away from the normal path.  That action was significant, not because it mattered to the rest of the world, but because it was a choice that mattered within.

Starting Rising Pyramid was a decision—a commitment to pursue the dreams that a childhood had created.  Without realizing it, I had found the act of prioritizing something meaningful over my free time so rewarding that it inspired a thousand similar acts. Through one post per week, we learned the joy of doing something that felt like giving back.  We were off the ‘beaten path’.

The less trodden route can be a slippery, thrilling slope; before I knew it I was walking the path to work at a startup in Pakistan as an Acumen Fund Fellow.   My choices shaped my experiences as I learned to appreciate the perspectives of a people who couldn’t be more different from your average Californian.

The trouble with this path is that there is a long way to go.  As I become increasingly cognizant of the chasms of trust that exist between the peoples of our world, I’m saddened on a deep level.


The events of the last week highlight just how deeply ingrained our problem is; in multiple countries, offended Muslims stormed or protested American embassies because of a terrible and hateful anti-Islam video.  As a result, the US Ambassador to Libya, who was a local hero, was killed.

This is bound to stir up hate within Americans and Muslims alike, but if we only knew each other, we could see that generally all major religious or national groups have some crazy extremists attempting to cause lots of trouble, and frankly they should be ignored.

The video that created so much trouble was heavily publicized by a wacky pastor in Florida—the same one who has ignited hate by burning the Koran in the past.  Most Americans find the video repulsive and the pastor himself a nut.  Yet, someone who is perceived as crazy domestically may still be perceived as a representative American abroad.

This is where the confusion, pride and prejudice begins.  I am absolutely certain that right now, around the world, people are blaming America as a whole saying, ‘Did you hear about the anti-Islamic video from America?’  If you are American, this may seem like an unfair assessment to you, but don’t be so blind as to not realize that us Americans are guilty of misguided prejudice as well.

At the moment, millions of Americans are appalled that ‘Muslims’ are attacking our embassies.  Pride, especially national or religious pride, has the power to blind us.

We are talking about extremists on both sides of the equation.  Just as it is unfair for others to call this hateful video ‘American’, it is downright wrong for Americans to judge the people of the Middle East for the actions of a few crazies.

Having lived in Pakistan, I can tell you that the Muslims there are an incredibly peaceful people.  If anything, Muslims themselves are more affected by the regional extremists than anyone else ever is.

The ticket to progress is truly setting aside our national pride and our personal prejudices—to be open to the fact that maybe we’re all just humans hoping to live, laugh and love for 80+ trips around the sun.  One dream—to live happily with friends and family—is shared across the world, regardless of race, color, creed, preference or nation.

The answer to distrust in this world is not war or more colonization and hate, but individual experiences and personal connections. We need more people to go into the homes of the incredibly poor and talk to them like they are equals.

This not an easy path, but it is the only path to mutual understanding. We need more social entrepreneurs, not just to build businesses that make dignified life easier, but also in order to establish relationships built on mutual support, rather than mutual prejudice.


Bryan Farris is a co-founder of Rising Pyramid and 2ndNature.


Questions for Aspiring Leaders

Bavidra Mohan, Acumen’s India Fellows Manager, attended this years Aspen IDEAS festival as a Scholar. The Scholarship program was established to invite guests from around the world to bring a diverse set of experiences, voices and perspectives to the rich conversations that take place at the IDEAS festival each year. [Read More]

10 Books We’re Reading This Summer

What are you reading? It is a common question here at Acumen, an organization full of avid readers constantly trading favorite book titles that discuss leadership, impact, development and branding. Here are 10 stellar books we’re reading this summer. These books and others provide a framework of thinking, a spark of new ideas, a platform for debate. So, what are you reading? [Read More]

How Acumen Brought Back my Fire

Eda is an East Africa Regional Fellow from Nairobi, Kenya and is the Founder and Director of Halisi Trust, an organization that seeks to challenge the vices that plague society and encourage transformational development in Kenya’s youth. When Eda applied for the East Africa Fellows Program, she felt disillusioned and stuck. Below, Eda discusses how Acumen’s Regional Fellowship Program brought back her fire. Now, Eda has engaged nearly 6,000 people through outreach events and the Mkenya Halisi movement continues to grow. Acumen is currently accepting applications for the next class of East Africa Fellows. APPLY TODAY! [Read More]

Imagining the world as it could be

Christine Gitau is an East Africa Fellow and an enterprise coach at Craft Afrika, which provides business support services to craft entrepreneurs, enabling them build viable and thriving businesses in Kenya. At Acumen we often use the term “Moral Imagination” when talking about leadership. Christine wrote a reflection on how this concept has shifted her thinking. We could not be more proud of what she is building! [Read More]

How two Acumen Fellows are disrupting the education model in India

Whether its running youth soccer programs, providing vocational training services, or transforming the education system in India, Acumen India Fellows are driving real change in their communities.  Abbas Dadla and Abhilasha Sinha are India Fellows who are addressing the teacher shortage in India through the use of technology and peer collaboration. Find out what they are building below.  If you have grit, resilience and a commitment to creating change in your community in India, East Africa or Pakistan, we encourage you to apply for the Regional Fellowship Program! [Read More]

Meet Manjushree Patil, Founder of Aatman Academy

This month saw violent tragedies in Pakistan and Kenya, regions where Acumen works and which five classes of Acumen regional fellows call home. Among them there are dedicated teachers like Acumen India Fellow Manjushree Patil, crusaders against sex trafficking, builders of government, creators of liberating mobile medical technologies, and curators of slum sports programs. The need for strengthening the connections between those who are working for positive change against seemingly impossible odds has never been greater. We at Acumen have never been prouder to be the thread tying together these courageous individuals. Read more about Manjushree and how she is changing her community in India below! [Read More]

No, not silence again!

The Acumen Fellowship’s Cambridge Leadership Associates (CLA) training is notorious for digging deep, breaking Fellows down to reveal their deepest fears, identifying the sources of resilience that will fuel them with the tenacity to continue along the path to social change. Kahabi G. Isangula is an East Africa Regional Fellow living in Tanzania and recently participated in our CLA training. Get an idea of what it is like, below!  [Read More]

Announcing the Class of 2015 Acumen Global Fellows

Acumen Global Fellows are architects for the impact sector. They are innovators, game changers, visionaries, with various professional experiences looking to make substantial change in the world. They have thrived in companies such as Google; they have started their own companies in Sri Lanka, Canada and Malaysia.  They are choosing the challenge of working alongside our portfolio companies and immersing themselves in a rigorous leadership training. [Read More]