Naked Porcupine

December 29, 2022
5 min read

Can the act of becoming your most vulnerable self, actually make you the most powerful version of yourself?

The North American porcupine has 30,000 quills. They cannot throw or shoot them, only bristle upon attack.


Four decades into my life I too had 30,000 bristling quills, a set of formidable armor that shields the beautiful messiness of my unconstructed self: my pure imagination.


My quills gave me power and control over every situation. They made me the greatest showman, a spectacle that commanded awe and admiration, while never exposing the radiance, innocence, and wildness of my pure imagination – a delicate blend of creativity and vulnerability that is at the heart of my humanity.


Imagine, then, a porcupine, the greatest showman, now naked, stripped of all armor and protection, exposed to the world.


It’s the Spring 2020 and COVID-19 has just descended upon humanity, and only weeks before America shattered with the killing of George Folyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota and ignited a cultural conversation on race felt around the world and to this day. It was my second awakening in my 46 years of life. 


My first awakening came in my early thirties. After years of getting knocked out, never living up to my own expectations, never good enough in my own ideas, yet still succeeding, I finally realized getting knocked out was my superpower. I could recover, bounce-back and without fear, leap again. I was…resilient.


Resilience fueled a fearlessness in me. I became a leaper, able to jump without hesitation in every aspect of my life and career. Resilience, and my resulting fearlessness, became such a personal driving force that I made growing and celebrating it in others my purpose and life mission.


But 2020 devastated me as a human, dad, friend, and ally…George Floyd, Briannia Taylor, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice…marches, demands for change, intersectionality, representation, my role, my purpose, all came crashing into focus.


And then it hit me, but not like knock-out punches of the past. This was different. I no longer wanted to be knocked out and I didn’t want to teach others how to get knocked out. 

I wanted to fight, teach others how to fight, how to lead and how to change the world.


I knew that to be a leader in this moment I had to become the thing I feared the most: myself - unprotected, unconstructed, and totally vulnerable. I had to become…naked. And in that nakedness, I would find the confidence to become a beacon for myself, my team, our community, and the world. 

And so I released 30,000 quills – all armor, all protection – and stood there a naked porcupine, so exposed, so vulnerable.


A naked porcupine is silly to imagine, laughable in fact, but isn’t that somehow powerful? Can the process of becoming your most vulnerable self actually make you the most powerful version of yourself?


Up until that moment, I had successfully separated my personal and professional life and ensured that only a few people experienced who I actually was - I had created two Identities, connected, yet different. 


I had long hidden my creativity, allowing only flashes of it to be seen in my work, but never the pure wildness of my imagination.


In my most creative state, I am blissfully exuberant, almost manic with energy. A live wire of movement, ideas, and words. I write and connect, bubble and overflow. I create. And in this moment of pure imagination, I am a kid again, with no understanding of judgment, no life experiences to confine me; just innocence, optimism and vulnerability. Everything I say, everything I write, everything I scribble is perfectly imperfect. 


To become vulnerable, to lead with vulnerability and to teach the power of being vulnerable meant dismantling 46 years of armor and showing up as I am, authentically and purely, so others could show up too.


With the power of vulnerability as my driver and a guttural instinct that leading this change was core to my life purpose, I sponsored a coalition of seven BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) female leaders spanning every level of the business to change the arc of our organization towards a more diverse, equitable and inclusive future, one that reflected the beautiful diversity and multiplicity of our modern world.


To tackle the idea of systemic racism and its impact on organizational models, recruiting, talent and representation means tackling the wholly intimate idea of intersectionality – the formidable, systemic, and nuanced ways individuals are discriminated against. Intersectionality is vulnerability. It is without armor, without judgment, one’s absolute lived experience.


When you ask people to enter a space and to speak of the layers of experiences that are intimately their own, you are asking them to be vulnerable. And they must sense, viscerally, your vulnerability too.


I am a gay, cis-gendered, white male husband and dad of twins. I can never truly embody the lived intersectionality of others, but I can create a space where vulnerability, understanding, championing and support change the world.


Over the last 24 months, I have watched with sheer awe the magnitude and momentous change these seven leaders have enacted. Their stories, strategies, vulnerability, and grit have resulted in foundational shifts in our organization and in our future. And they have given me a source of light, hope and beautiful energy I have never experienced…all a result of leading with vulnerability.


If you are wrestling with your own purpose in life, if you are trying to understand how you can impact your family, community, team, world, then you must simply start with yourself and your own vulnerability.

Vulnerability is like a paddle to the face – its striking, blistering in its impact, yet shakes you to your core.


It’s time to drop your quills, remove your armor and stand naked in the most powerful and transformative experience in life - vulnerability.