If great criminal success also requires hard work, why don't those people just focus on legitimate endeavours with less risk?

I don’t think most drug dealers make a million a week (that has to be like a thousand kilos of cocaine) any more than the average doctor or lawyer makes a million a year.

There is a saying I’ve heard “a hustler never works and a worker never hustles”. The main idea being that people who just “keep their nose to the grindstone”, “pay their dues”, “keep their head down”, etc are fools who will just spend their lives working for someone else earning just enough to “get by” (if they’re lucky).

The “hustler” mentality is more about looking for angles to play, corners to cut, deals to make, opportunities to leverage, etc to get ahead. These sort of people aren’t interested in “hard work”. They can be very entrepreneurial and tend to gravitate towards jobs like sales where you don’t “do” or “make” anything. You just make deals. They may even found “disruptive” industries that challenge the status quo. They can also be full of shit. And if you already have that mentality where the “rules don’t apply” and it’s ok to “do whatever it takes to get ahead”, it’s not that big of a step to go from working jobs in industries that are kind of borderline rackets to begin with (like real estate, investment banking, or Silicon Valley tech) to actual rackets, fraud, and criminal enterprise.

Pediatricians, family practice docs, psychiatrists often average out to about ~$200,000 a year. It’s specialists that make the big bucks in medicine.

Found the Willie Sutton quote:

“Why did I rob banks? Because I enjoyed it. I loved it. I was more alive when I was inside a bank, robbing it, than at any other time in my life. I enjoyed everything about it so much that one or two weeks later I’d be out looking for the next job. But to me the money was the chips, that’s all.”

It’s a common sort of refrain from criminals, legitimate businessmen, gamblers, and many other risk takers. Usually said shortly before their lives come crashing down around them. They’re trying to convince themselves they’re living the high life when they are aware of the inevitable failure ahead.

Also applicable to the post directly above.