NY Times 27 Ap, Justine Musk (former wife of Elon Musk of Space X and car fame) on extreme success:
"Extreme people combine brilliance and talent with an "insane" work ethic, so if your work itself doesn't drive you, you will burn out or fall by the wayside or your extreme competitors will crush you and make you cry.
Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars, say) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs. It helps to have an ego, but you must be in the service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you.
... Sometimes it's not so much the money that matters, but the win is everything--particularly when you have invested heart and soul in your mission.
Your job is your hobby. The nature of these things is so all-consuming. Unless you see that up-close it is hard to understand.
Obsession has a bad rap."
I, MK, have been thinking about this in terms of scholars and scientists. There are Nobel Prize winners who are not so obsessed, just fortunate. But the ones I knew best are so obsessed, although they something took on hobbies such as mountain climbing. Here the win is not so much financial as it is being firstest with the mostest.
In the social sciences and the humanities, it's usually harder to distinguish such extreme success. But you look for productivity in terms of books (and articles), and the intensity of that work and the presumption to theory building or defining. Or, sometimes it is the systematic devotion to a problem, whether it be to understand something, to explain an author or some texts, or a site, or... There are few defining prizes in these fields (except for Economics), such as literature, philosophy, sociology, political science, etc. If you study classic authors, or ancient texts, there is a chance that you become the authority, but likely there are several authorities with different perspectives.
In mathematics (see C. Villani's new book (now in English) or Michael Harris's Mathematics Without Apologies where he speaks of charisma), there are such great prizes, for those under 40 (Fields medal), for those who solve certain problems (Clay Millennial Problems), here think of Wiles and the Fermat Last Theorem or Perelman and the Poincare Conjecture (See Masha Gessen's book on Perelman). But there are achievements that are as significant which are not so prized--limited number of prizes, wrong age,... This is true in general.