I am always fascinated by careers in which only a handful of people are able to succeed.
When I was growing up, my parents used to tell me that it’s possible to make a living doing anything, as long as you’re the best. It seems that the more unique the career, the more disproportionate the income allotment. A select few make very lucrative salaries, while the vast majority barely scrape by.
Nevertheless, many are willing to take the risk for the love of the profession, or maybe for the thrill of the chase. Let’s take a look at a few unorthodox career choices, and those who have succeeded in their respective fields:
When I was a kid, my father took me to a local skateboard park to watch a skating competition. The winner was an unknown, skinny 16-year-old kid named Tony Hawk. Ten years later, Tony Hawk was a household name, famous for his numerous contributions to the sport, like being the first to land a 900-degree mid-air rotation.
Ask 50 people who made skateboarding as popular as it is today, and at least 48 of them will say Tony Hawk. After lending his name to a number of products including a series of video games, and starting his own extreme sports competition in Las Vegas, Hawk’s estimated net worth comes in at around $120 million.
We can all name plenty of famous musicians who earn millions, but making a successful living as a songwriter out of the public eye is truly a feat.
Ever heard of Max Martin? Unless you’re in the music industry, probably not.
A former recording artist from Sweden, Martin has written many songs you have probably heard hundreds of times for such artists as The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, N’Sync, Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi and Pink. Since 1999, he has written or co-written no less than 16 number one songs on the Billboard charts and has won ASCAP’s Songwriter of the Year award six times. For his efforts, Martin has amassed a net worth of $250 million.
Making a living playing video games sounds like every kid’s dream. Turning this dream into a lucrative profession is something few would dare try. But for Johnathan Wendel, it’s just another day at the office.
Wendel is considered one of the best professional gamers in the world, having won 12 world championship titles, including four Player of the Year awards with the Cyberathlete Professional League and one with the World Cyber Games. His endorsement deals include computer hardware companies, headphone companies and even food companies. Wendel was recently named the highest paid professional video gamer in the world by Business Insider, having earned a total of $454,544.98 from 35 tournaments.
When it comes to rodeo clowns, or “bullfighters” as they’re known in the business, I don’t know whether to view them with great respect or as lunatics. Throwing themselves in front of a 2,000-pound bull night after night in order to protect rodeo competitors, injury is not just a possibility, it’s a certainty. Despite being a college graduate, Justin Rumford entered the profession in 2010 after being a competitor for 12 years. He quickly gained respect in the industry and in 2012, was named Clown of the Year by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. While this career choice has many downsides, like a fairly short time span, Rumford clears up to $150,000 a year for his work.
The joke about artists is that they must die before their work is worth anything. One exception is Pablo Picasso. No real introduction is needed here. Widely considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Picasso is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, co-inventing collage and inventing constructed sculpture. Picasso died at the age of 91 with a net worth of around $50 million, and in 2010, one of his paintings set a record for fetching $106.5 million at auction. Note to anyone considering art as a career choice – you probably have a better chance of winning the lottery twice than achieving Picasso’s level of success in the field. Picasso was once quoted as saying, “My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.”
If you’re just entering the workforce and are thinking about one of these careers, I wish you the best of luck. Someone has to do them, but only a few will be successful, and while it’s lonely at the top, sometimes it’s lonelier at the bottom. If you’re a recruiter and by some freak occurrence one of these positions happens to cross your bench, I wish you even more luck…but please, don’t call me.