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November 2014

Life is (also) elsewhere

There is a certain attitude among people who live in cities like London, New York, and Paris that they are living "at the center of things". There is an unspoken attitude that the mundane details of their lives are somehow more interesting and important just because they happen to live in a place that "counts".  Their careers are thought to be more important, the neighborhoods they live in somehow mean something significant, their circle of friends and their social activities are thought to be fascinating, and their restaurants are to be raved about as the best in the world. Everything about their lives are assumed to be more evolved and advanced than those of us living in places that are less popular and familiar.

This attitude is not only held by inhabitants of major cities, but unfortunately it is also shared by most of us who have chosen to live elsewhere. We actually, deep down, believe the lie that our lives are less significant because we aren't walking streets that are routinely shown in the movies. I suppose TV and films promote this narrative, as most of them take place in one of these major cities. Also, our friends who move away often return only to make us feel insignificant by bragging about their fabulous and glamorous lives elsewhere. Everywhere we turn, this attitude is reinforced. 

I used to be quite the offender. When I lived in Seattle, I was insufferable. When I would travel back to my hometown (or when I would go anywhere else in the world really) I was never shy about informing people about how wonderful and perfect things were in Seattle. I felt as though I was living somewhere that "counted"...as though my adopted Seattle opinions and values were cool, correct, and indisputable...as though our food was better...our coffee was better...our people were more educated...and of course I was superior because I happened to have a rented apartment (and a boring job) there.

So is it true? Is a walk down a beautiful street in Trieste, Italy somehow less interesting or important than a walk down 5th Avenue? Is a beautiful apartment in Ljubljana, Slovenia somehow less beautiful than an over-priced, smaller one in the center of London? Is a walk with a lover in a neighborhood park any less romantic than a long taxi ride and a walk in Central Park? Is a wonderful meal in Miskolc, Hungary less tasty than an average one in Paris, France? Is an 80-hour workweek in NYC truly superior than a 4-hour workweek in Kosice, Slovakia? Everything is relative.

Nobody is to blame because we all live in a bubble that is created by our community, our profession, our circle of friends, and even by the entertainment and content we consume. Life can be beautiful in wonderful in NYC, London, and Paris...but it can also be beautiful and full of endless possibilities in Madison, Wisconsin or Kosice, Slovakia.

Your life has value when you have found a place that feels like home and when your days are filled with the balance that works for you. Life is beautiful when it is filled with love, with joy, with ideas, desires, adventures, successes, and failures. Life is exciting when it is filled with the growth of new experiences, interesting tastes, new sounds, challenging ideas, and open or honest relationships. Life has meaning when you create something that is truly yours. Life is filled with contentment when you earn enough money to stop worrying and start living. All of this is possible, wherever you happen to live.

My point is that it isn't where you live that defines you and gives your life value, it is how you live. Life is (also) elsewhere.

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

This is Tibor Dragon on bass

Today is Tibor's name day and it feels like a great time to send some positive thoughts and appreciation his way. Since Tibi doesn't drink, I guess there's no opportunity to toast and the best I can do is write something here! :-)

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I've been in this band for more than 2 years with the same group of guys. Over this period of time, we've gotten to know each other not just as musicians but also on a very personal level. Probably the determining factor of whether or not a band stays together is whether the members end up growing either closer in time or further apart. Lately it seems like we are coming together and moving forward as one unit...not just as 4 guys who want different things for different reasons.

It is clear to anybody who has ever heard the classically-trained Tibor on guitar or bass, that he is distinguished in his style and technical abilities. Tibor was the last member who joined our band, but as early as our first rehearsal he was already able to play all of the songs. I have to work hard to memorize songs, but Tibor simply turns, looks you in the eyes, and performs the song perfectly on his first take. I guess his training allows him to not only anticipate what's coming, but to quickly adjust if (for a split second) he goes only slightly off course.

But it's not just that Tibor quickly plays the song "correctly". He adds something smooth and almost "jazzy"...something that really works well I might add...even to songs that fall far outside that genre. His bass interprets my songs perfectly. It is, truly, a wonderful experience for me to stand next to Tibor in rehearsal and on stage.

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In his other life, Tibor is a Chemical Engineer who specializes in Quality Control. One of the ways he helps the band is that he brings his gentle, but firm approach to quality control to our project. Each time one of us gets too far off into our own fantasy world, or if we bring something less than great to our performance, Tibor gently asks a question or shares an opinion that gets us back on track. He holds us accountable to a higher standard. 

What defines Tibor most is his disciplined and principaled approach to everything he does. He knows exactly who he is, what he wants in life, and then methodically goes out to get it. I've never met anyone more loyal to the people around him and to the causes in which he believes. If you have Tibor's word, you have something you can trust without any doubt. 

I'd like to congratulate Tibor on his name day but also on the purchase of his new flat. It will be a lot of fun now all 4 members of Abscondo live in the same neighborhood.

Tibor, you're the greatest guy, a kind person, an amazing musician, and a really good friend. I look forward to creating music with you hopefully for years to come.

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Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

This is Martin Lechman on drums

One of the things I enjoy most about being in the band Abscondo is that I get to hang out with some really great musicians who also happen to be good friends and great people.  

One particular guy who I'm a huge fan of is Martin Lechman. Martin is our drummer, but he's also the very talented frontman of a great Slovak band called KVETY V PODPAŽÍ.

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When describing Martin's strengths, it is a bit difficult to know where to begin. On a personal level, his positive attitude and good charm never fail. The challenges we face as a band can sometimes feel overwhelming, but I can't remember a single time when Martin failed to greet each of us with a big smile and a warm handshake. Remarkably, the smile and optimistic approach never seems to fade as long as the evening lasts or the practice goes on.  

One of the things I find most admirable about Martin is his loyalty and dedication not just to Abscondo but to good music, itself. He only makes music he believes in and loves. With his talent, it would perhaps be easy to "sell-out" and play any gig that comes along, but Martin remains true to his excellent taste and unique artistic vision.   

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It requires an enormous amount of hard work and sacrifice not only to maintain technical skills on drums and guitar, but also to move forward on the creative side of things even as you face the constant pressure of trying to earn a living. Martin makes it look easy, but I know that what he does is far from easy.

All of this said, it isn't his willingness to work hard and sacrifice that impresses me most. I admire Martin because of his musical and personal greatness (not even to mention the original ideas he so effortlessly seems to express on drums). I can't imagine what Abscondo would sound like without him, but that isn't my point. I quite simply look forward to the possibility of playing with, watching, listening to, and hanging out with this remarkable guy for years to come.  He's top-notch and it makes me very proud each time I share a stage with him.

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Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).