Of everyone I know I am probably the person who knows how to do the most things….badly. Allow me to explain. I am like a perennial amateur. Ok, one thing I seemingly do well which is to have original ideas, like Fon and turn them into businesses. And that I do well. Maybe not Michael Dell well, but well enough to have started and sold 3 businesses for over half a billion. But other than that I am an amateur at so many things that I love to do but others do better!

The list is enormous. I love to cook and I cook reasonably well, very fast, people enjoy my food but of course there are so many better chefs than I am. I was also a diplomat for 4 years representing Argentina during its worst crisis. And I did what I could, in the States some still call me Ambassador cause once an Ambassador always an Ambassador in the States, but frankly, how can an Ambassador be a blogger? I was not a good Ambassador because I like to tell what I believe in. So much for being a diplomat. And what about being a Jet pilot? Yes, I am a pilot with a private pilot license and I did my Citation Jet certification. I had to pass 11 exams, take many classes and I can fly a Jet. But of course I am a so so pilot compared to most jet pilots. I have no doubt that most jet pilots are better than I am, still I greatly enjoy piloting my plane. And how about sailing? I have sailed since I was a teenager, I sail around 30 days per year in the Mediterranean or the Caribbean and I am studying to be the skipper of my 92 ft sailboat that I have had for 8 years. And I do know a lot about sailing and my sailboat but I know very little compared with professional crews. Still I know enough and can sail my boat from an island to another island. And by next summer I will have my skipper title. Again an amateur.

And the list goes on. I write for newspapers, magazines and have been writing for them since I was in college when I was a correspondent for Spanish and Argentine media. But am I a journalist? Even though articles of mine have appeared in books and 300K people per month read my blog, I could hardly call myself a writer, even though in practice I am and I do spend an hour a day or so writing, like I am doing now.

Another job I have is to organize conferences and events including some very large ones like the ones we organized at my foundation, Safe Democracy or the Menorca TechTalk. But even though I spend a significant amount of time organizing events, I know many people who do that for a living, people like Klaus Schwab for example. And even though many heads of states have attended conferences that I have organized I am no Klaus Schwab nor a professional conference organizer. And as far as being a speaker I have been paid sums like 14 thousand euros for speaking for one hour. But I decided not to charge for speaking and only speak at events I enjoy and be an amateur speaker. Somehow I feel uncomfortable about getting paid to speak, I feel that my freedom to say whatever I want is restricted. So I speak in around 30 conferences per year but I would not call myself a professional speaker. I guess the common theme in all I do is not being a professional, that I am not except as an entrepreneur, but being extremely curious and being fearless about trying new things.

I also have this necessity to be the boss of everything I do which is probably a disease. So if I am in a car I want to drive, in a boat I want to steer, in a conference I want to speak, in a plane I want to pilot, in a kitchen I want to cook. I know I should just let go, rely on others, and to a great extent I do as I have pilots, crew, driver, etc. Being a blogger is a good example. I used to write more for newspapers and magazines and I know that if I continued to do so I would have more readers. But being my own editor and publishing what I want when I want is more important than being read by tons of people. I prefer to publish in the Huffington Post which gives me total journalistic freedom than writing for Newsweek as I once did and had to deal with an editor telling me to add or take away words and change my piece. And I do write for the leading news magazine in Argentina, Noticias but that is because they are crazy enough to publish articles that are sometimes 9 pages long unedited. And I guess people like them cause they are now complaining I have sent nothing for a few months.

In short, in a world of professionals I am a perennial amateur. I do what I do out of love and probably a sick desire to be the master of my own life. I don´t care about doing things perfectly well. I care about doing reasonably well and having fun in the process.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

No Comments

peter on February 15, 2008  · 

.. a lot of nice understatements…. funny 🙂

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Wolfgang Busch on February 15, 2008  · 

beeing a “real” professional means, getting only focused on your “profession” and closing your mind and not opening for other interesting things in lief.
maybe you are only so successful because you are NOT a professional.
i believe that all the different things, people are doing not as professional work opens their mind and make them to “real” human and not only to a mashine living only for their professional job.


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Brokenglish.blogspot.com on February 15, 2008  · 

Amateurism rules!!!

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Kevin Werbach on February 15, 2008  · 


We’re all amateurs at most things we do. Only some of us have the good fortune of being amateurs at what we do to make a living. You’re better at it than most!

Anyway, this idea of professionalism is partly an artifact of modernity, and partly a relic of the pre-modern guild system. There’s no reason to preserve it now.

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Gustavo L on February 15, 2008  · 

Great post Martin.

Just curious. When you fly your Citation who is the co-pilot? Don’t you need two pilots?

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Klaus Ernst on February 16, 2008  · 

Very impressive!
My activities are much more (veloci-)pedestrian. I can’t fly a plane and when it comes to sailing I help paddling when the wind dies down.
Two questions – if I may:
Do you make music?
Does your New York apartment have a Fonera?
Regards, Klaus Ernst aka FONERnestO in ZIP 11379

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gilga on February 16, 2008  · 

Enjoyed reading your perennial amateur manifesto 🙂
I would say as long as you and the ones close to you are happy do whatever – professional or amateur – you like.

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Joe H. on February 18, 2008  · 

That thing you said; “I also have this necessity to be the boss of everything I do which is probably a disease” is, almost certainly, a big reason why you have so successful.

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Prachi on February 18, 2008  · 

Hello Martin

This blog of yours is highly inspiring ….. It put me into thinking “How can people have so much talent and still be so down to earth ”

By the way…Do you also have a hobby of investing in great ideas ?? If yes, I’ll like to be in touch…..


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Martin Varsavsky on February 18, 2008  · 


My NY apartment has a Fonera. I don’t make music, studied some guitar, but I would not even dare calling myself an amateur musician. I do enjoy music though!

Martin Varsavsky on February 18, 2008  · 


The Citation is certified SP, but I never fly it alone. My days of flying alone r over. Its just not safe enough.

Martin Varsavsky on February 18, 2008  · 

Agreed Kevin!

polac on February 22, 2008  · 

Don´t worry Martin, your an excellent and very professional salesman.

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Martin Varsavsky on February 22, 2008  · 

thank you polac!

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