IT ALL STARTED for me at a lunch. You know those lunches—you go, you listen, you eat chicken—but this one I knew was going to be a bit more fun as I was sitting in the front beside Jenny Torrence—that’s like placing the two most talkative, least likely to follow the directions people together in the front of the room and think they won’t cause a few “shhhhh” looks.
And then it happened. Jenny leaned over and said, “Hey, what do you think about placing the statement ‘I AM TOPEKA’ on a shirt.”
It was like everyone in the room disappeared. I was all in—“That is perfect!” I mean, I don’t always love Topeka, but I could definitely buy into the idea that I am Topeka.
The business side of me was so excited for Jenny and Pinkadilly as my gut told me people would love the shirts. We discussed ways that TK Business could embrace “I am Topeka”—maybe a series of articles about people that exude Topeka, may be even a cover photo (see the cover and articles on page 10)—I mean TK is Topeka.
Obviously we got a few of those “shhh” looks, possibly even one from the speaker, as we turned that lunch into a business meeting.
But then the real power of “I am Topeka” hit me. I like to call it the “Oh crap moment.” It was that moment when the realization of what it really means if I am Topeka.
It means that I am what you say about Topeka, because I am Topeka. If you say Topeka is bad, you are saying that I am bad. If you say that Topeka is boring, then I am boring. If you say Topeka isn’t a good place for business, then you are pretty much questioning the entire belief and mission of TK Business.
But it means even more than that. It means that if I am at a meeting, be it with work or in serving the community, then I have to take ownership of my participation, or lack thereof, in the actual conversation, and then I have to match my expectation of the results with my participation. It goes back to an old acronym I learned as a child and try to live by in my own life— YOGOWYPI (pronounced: yo-go-whip-ee)—it means You Only Get Out What You Put In.
This is more than just a simple statement that looks good on a shirt. “I am Topeka” is all about taking ownership of Topeka as one would take ownership of their own essence. “I am Topeka” means that you are the reason Topeka is what it is today, and you are the reason for what it will become.
Topeka needs each of us and the gifts that we have. Each of us has different characteristics that define us—creative, strong-willed, analytical, passionate, caring, empathic, strategic. While those characteristics will vary, we need each and every one of them to come together and create a diverse, strong and beautiful community.
If you truly embrace the idea of being Topeka, then you too are all in.
I am strong. I am passionate. I am empowered. I am Topeka.
What are you?