A common question that I get in presentations, and when I began presenting I had the story in my presentations, is, "Why Kansas?" My book is called Finding Kansas and often people wonder why I chose that name.
I also use the cover of my book on my iRacing Indycar and there too do I get asked, "Why Kansas?" Things I've been asked at while racing have been, "Do I run a travel agency for the state of Kansas?" No. "Do I have any affiliation with an organization called 'Finding Kansas City apartments?'" No. "Am I geographically challenged?" Most certainly not! "Have you found Kansas?" Sort of.
While people are normally far off on why it's called Kansas the and, unless you've read my book you're not going to know that my definition of Kansas isn't the physical state (check my glossary for the definition if you do no know it) but rather a concept. However, there is a reason why Kansas got the nod for the name but it's probably not for any reason you can imagine.
It was 2006 and I was still writing out my life in chapters and coming up with concepts to describe the things I have to deal with being on the autism spectrum. It was springtime, racing season had begun, and I was the flagman and race director for the Central States Super Series which was a regional kart series. We had a race in Carrollton, Missouri but on our race schedule it was listed as Kansas City because most people would have a hard time finding Carrollton.
During the race day we had a slight delay between two sessions so a couple of drivers came up to ask questions and we started chatting. When I was race directing I was like I am at a presentation as I was energetic, potentially humorous, and able to respond in a timely manner. My "Alias" concept was in full swing (again, check the glossary if you don't know that concept) and I wasn't Aaron Likens but simply Aaron the race director who needed to be confident and firm.
The race day progressed and when it was over those same two drivers came up to talk to me but now things were different; the role of race director had gone away and I had no strength in Alias. These two drivers though, despite my answers of least resistance (think single word answers) kept trying to talk to me. They were really confused and eventually one of them looked at me and asked, "Are you sure you're that same guy we were talking to earlier today?"
Never had I been asked a question that hurt so badly. Before that point I didn't realize the difference between being in Alias and being what I was about to write about in being in my Kansas. It was about a four hour car ride home and when I got home I went straight to my computer to write a chapter entitled, "Situational Handicap." The words flowed as I typed but then I had to come up with the name of the concept. Originally it wasn't called Kansas but Carrollton but then I remembered the reasoning of the schedule saying Kansas City because no one really knew where Carrollton was (except those that live there, of course) so I then went with the name Missouri but my poor state, Missouri and "misery" sound way too close together and a concept of finding misery just didn't sound good. What was I to do? I still had the race schedule in my pocket and I looked at it and saw Kansas City so I named the concept "Kansas City" but that didn't have any sort of ring to it so I dropped the city and the concept of "Kansas" was born despite having nothing to do with the actual state and the story that inspired it actually happened in Missouri. And that's the origin of why I chose Kansas.