I wonder what is the level of dedication required to 'succeed' in different fields. I hypothesize that certain areas have such incredibly high standards that childhood beginnings and incredibly dedication are mandatory to acquire any kind of level (music and chess come to mind as good examples). On the other hand there are those with low general standards in which major players can start in the teenage years and later and yet nonetheless make a living from (eg poker and markets).

The main factors which delineate such fields might be the barrier to entry (any fool can push a buy or sell button, regardless of experience, whereas not many people will draw an audience to hear them play the piano), though with markets I suspect standards are especially low because the industry has had a strong focus on fees rather than excellence. And that's without considering the 'Madoff factor' (cheating in its various forms).

I suggest it follows that one should bring ones children up to excel in weak fields rather than strong ones, so maybe we should dump such worthy things such as violin lessons in favor of a pack of cards…

Pitt. T Maner III writes:

Unless you are talented like Shirley Temple, online is the weak field where the kids appear to make the money.

You need a good idea and a programmer in Romania.

Jonathan Manzi (born 1991, Beverly, Massachusetts), an American entrepreneur, is known as the youngest person in history to attain a net worth exceeding $1 million via industry, doing so at the age of 16:

OK, this is quite an accomplishment. Where does this entrepreneurial streak come from? It's almost as if I was born with it. When I was 6 years old, I was collecting rocks and painting pictures on them, and trying to peddle them down the street to an art gallery. I started a shoveling business when I was 8. Did your parents influence you? My dad is a civil engineer, and my mom is a nutritionist. They're very hands-off, which I think they know I like.

Jeff Watson writes: 

It would be a crime to dump things like chess and violin for kids. They still have their elements of grace and beauty. But the market and simple economics, the invisible hand of Adam Smith, is making its move. It should be noted that the top poker player that was 100th last year in earnings (Howard Lederer) made $1,526,000 in tournaments alone, not including side games. Incidentally, the leader in poker made $12,000,000 last year playing only in tournaments. Professional violin players can expect to make $75,000-$100,000/year in a very top orchestra. However, very little information is available on the average remuneration of the highest paid violin players. As a child, I elected to play the guitar, becoming semi-competent. We had a high school band for awhile where we might make $75.00 a night for the entire band playing a 2.5 hour gig (we were really bad).

On the other hand, at the same time I could play a very tight poker game and expect to grind out at least $50.00 and the economics dictated that I concentrate on playing poker. It is as tough to become a solid poker player and takes as much talent as it does for any musician. One caveat, all my money was earned fair and square then usually very quickly deposited at Hawthorne, Arlington, Sportsman's, or Maywood Park. Perhaps I would have been better off in the rarefied atmosphere of classical music,but I sure had a helluva lot more fun grinding it out on the felt then blowing my stake on a 40 to 1 shot sulky in the 7th at Maywood. As a kid I was an attendee of the opera, symphony, theater, ballet, poker games, and the track. The poker games and track won hands down. There's no words that can describe the thrill of standing at the rail on a cool but sunny afternoon, tickets in hand, with a dozen horses thundering past you where the ground literally shakes beneath your feet… It's indescribable, but you haven't really lived until you've experienced this joy.

Lawyers regularly bill out 60-80 hours a week and are under constant pressure to increase their work load, especially in a firm where they're trying to make partner. Dancers work a 6-8 hour shift, with maybe 5 stage dance routines per shift in a club(please don't ask how I know this). In a decent "Gentleman's Club" the dancer can earn as much as a lawyer will make, tax free. While dancers face risk from ex-beaus etc, lawyers are murdered all the time by ex-clients. Arguing whether dancing or lawyering is better, or which profession is more noble is a moot point as money has no conscience as long as it's legal and as far as I know, dancing is just as legal an occupation as being an attorney. Plus, most dancers have higher ethical standards than some lawyers I've encountered.

Nigel Davies adds:

This explains why classical musicians don't earn much; their art requires a highly cultivated palate to appreciate. Top chess is the same, you need a REALLY strong player to even start to understand what's going on. This makes a huge contrast with, say, poker and snooker where the strategies are very simple so they can easily be followed.

Stefan Jovanovich writes:

Snarks for a morning:

(1) Mozart would be writing scores for movies and television - which is where the only real money is for composers.

(2) The competition in professional sports is far, far greater than it is in classical music - which is one reason why football - both varieties - has more millionaires; the footers put on a better show

(3) When Ulysses Grant said that he knew two songs - "one was Yankee Doodle Dandy, and one wasn't" - he was showing his usual wonderfully modest sense of humor and teasing journalists about the fact that "taste" in music was a matter for individual opinion (like Jeff's), not social approval by Henry Adams and the New York Times. It is not surprising that few people now get the joke, for the United States has gone from being an absolutely music mad country (every regiment in the Civil War had a band) to one that is not. In the middle and late 19th century, and everyone was expected to know how to play an instrument just the way they are now expected to know how to drive a car. Any decent-sized town (20,000 people or more) had a Handel and Mozart society AND a Bach Society.


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