Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are the author’s alone. Matthew Mellor is interim CEO for Startland, the parent organization of Startland News.
What is it about Kansas City?
Even people from Kansas City struggle with the “but why.”
“Everyone who’s been to Kansas City says it’s someplace special. But why?”
As Kansas Citians, our minds go to the things that make it special. What do we have that’s so special? San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge. Denver is the Mile High City. Times Square. French Quarter. Rodeo Drive. Houston has whatever the hell it has. Even St Louis has some pointless arch.
But it’s not about the things. It’s about the people. WE are what’s special about KC. And that’s why we struggle to describe it. We’re Midwestern (yes, with a capital “M’). Midwestern means we don’t like to talk about ourselves. We know WE are what makes KC great. But our “aww shucks” attitude won’t allow us to admit it.
Kansas City is authentic. That’s it.
Authenticity is so rare that when we experience it, we’re taken back by it. We recoil just a bit. We’re intrigued, like we’re experiencing a foreign culture. Or space aliens.
They seem happy, these aliens. No oceans. No mountains. Iffy weather. But we get the sense that they know something we don’t, and we’re drawn in.
Can I experience this happiness, you think? “Of course you can.” says the voice in your head, in a perfectly neutral Midwestern accent. They continue. “Check your ego at the door, unless it’s about the Chiefs or barbeque. Exhale. Say ‘hi’ next time you walk past somebody. Actually, EVERY time you walk past somebody. Hold the door open longer than you should. Waive the car in front of you to merge in. Offer a beer to a complete stranger before the next big game.”
Authenticity is a drug. Once you’ve tried it, it’s impossible to quit. That’s why people move to KC for no apparent reason. It’s why people who grew up here, moved away for something bigger, always seem to come back.
Kansas City is the nation’s leading exporter of authenticity.
There’s lots of other great reasons to like KC, but lots of places have lots of great reasons to like them. But this isn’t really about “things.” And if you don’t get that, KC is probably not a good fit for you.
Matthew Mellor is interim CEO for Startland, the parent organization of Startland News. He is the exited founder of Strenuus, an Overland Park health tech firm, and an active member of multiple entrepreneur mentoring organizations in Kansas City.
This commentary originally appeared on LinkedIn.