How To Turn Your Esoteric Knowledge Into Big Bucks

One of the most interesting things about Bruce Pandolfini — apart from the fact that he was the expert commentator on the world’s most famous chess match (the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match on PBS) and that he was the inspiration for the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer” (as the teacher, not the kid) — is that he has probably made more money from the game of chess than any other international grand master in the world.

According to a recent story about him in the New Yorker, Pandolfini typically makes about $250,000 a year from chess. But he doesn’t make that kind of money playing. He dropped out of competitive chess years ago. He’s getting rich by teaching chess. He charges $200 an hour for private lessons. And who pays that kind of money? Not the chess players themselves, but their parents!

Yes, Bruce Pandolfini pulls down a quarter of a million bucks a year teaching the offspring of New York City’s elite. He has the reputation of being a great teacher (i.e., his kids win tournaments) without traumatizing the kids. If you like working with kids but don’t want to live like a Franciscan monk on a measly pittance, follow Pandolfini’s proven formula: * Teach something that involves competition — sports, spelling, piano, etc.

* Figure out what it takes to win and emphasize those skills.

* Work — when you can — with competitive kids and reward them competitively.

* Put plenty of fun into the program so the kids don’t complain about you to their parents.

* Promote two ideas: (1) that you are very successful at winning and (2) that kids like you.

You don’t need to be a virtuoso yourself to be a great teacher or coach, but you do need to put in some focused time. As with everything else, it will take you 1,000 hours to become competent and 5,000 hours to be a master. Deduct 30% for good instruction. Of course, the big secret is that you have to teach the children of the wealthy.

These are the people who have the money to spend. They are also the people who have the ambition to spend a lot of money making their children into little versions of themselves — competitive and successful. Pandolfini still teaches the occasional ghetto genius — and you can too. But he can’t spend all his time doing so. I mean, a guy’s gotta pay the bills.