We have all heard the words of Lao Tzu echoing that the journey of one thousand miles begins with that famous first step. That same wisdom is repeated at graduations and awards ceremonies, in personal development books and inspirational films so often that we tend to recite the words from rote without really considering what that step looks like, or how often we make it. After all, we make so many journeys in life, and as soon as we believe we have taken the definitive journey of our lives, a new one appears. At 23 I enlisted in the military, leaving behind school and moving forward on a journey that was but a piece of the one bringing me here. That journey shifted so many things, taught me so much and presented me with a great deal of challenge, but it was my journey, not the same journey everyone takes. In truth, there are as many thousand mile journeys as there are people, multiplied several times over. Today I sat across from someone starting a thousand mile journey, at the same age where I enlisted in the military.
Lauren Powers is a pretty incredible person, her smile is ever present (I don't believe it left her face once today) and her eyes are wide. Not wide eyed as we generally associate with naivete, no Lauren's eyes are wide so as to take in everything around her. She is hungry for knowledge, for her dream, for her place in this world. She sits with an incredible calm, poised and serene, but with an energy you can feel across the table. Lauren wants her journey. She is an adventurer, and sometimes the most difficult thing for an adventurer is patience, especially a young one. I could hardly sit still when I left for the airport to begin my time in the military. Standing still for the oath of enlistment was sheer murder. Lauren though is poised, it's a sign of a deep wisdom. She wants to go on her adventure, but there are things to learn, stories to be heard and she want those as well.
Lauren has a mantra, "experience the realness of people." It's amazing and reflects in those open eyes of hers. She sees and seeks to see people as they truly are, not their curated selves, and she loves them for that. Lauren is a scholar of life, a seeker, as we all are, or at least were before we decided we have hit an insurmountable wall. She asks me how I got beyond that wall. My answer is tragically cryptic; I tell her there is no wall. Relax, we didn't leave the answer there. As we talk I reflect on how we all thought there was a monster in our rooms as a child. Lauren's was under her bed and she could keep herself safe by keeping her toes under the covers. It has always amazed me that as we grow up, we continue to believe in the imaginary monsters, the fake walls and the created fears of our own minds while forgetting completely about the hope we have that we can fight it because we make the rules. The monster follows us into adulthood, but so does the blanket. SImply, we make the rules. There is no wall because I didn't build one, I know it's not there.
Lauren loves networking, not all networking, but the general process. She views it as an initial contact and then seeks to have chats over coffee, agendaless meetings to learn stories and gain a deeper understanding for the realness of the person across from her. Currently she is meeting with many people, learning their stories and working to develop relationships with mentors. She is so very intentional, so very driven and so very intelligent. When you sit across a table from someone like Lauren you can't help but feel like you are looking at an amazing gift, beautifully wrapped waiting for the right time to open. You have no idea what is in there, it could be anything, but you can't wait to see what it will be. After my time with Lauren today I can readily tell you she is going to change the world, and I will absolutely tell people "I knew her when."
We walked to our cars, to continue Sunday adventures, laughed and chatted a bit more. Lauren sought realness from people and we shared that same realness through our stories and our time. I am excited to introduce you all to Lauren, and to make personal introductions to some other people for this phenomenal human. I learned a lot from her, reflected on my journey and saw someone else's. I hope she got a fraction from me that I got from her.
Everyone's journey begins differently, when's the last time you asked them how it started? You might be surprised who you will find while travelling, some who have just started, some who have been on the road a while and even some who might be leaving for a different road soon. You never know, but you should always, like Lauren, seek the realness.
Favorite Dinosaur: Appatosaurus
Why: They were the gentle giant.