Produce theories about the nature of the universe that are not amenable to proof by normal human means.
$$: Academic professor salary. If you become a cultural icon, like Brian Greene or Stephen Hawking, you can be one of the few who attain rock star status equal to that of, say, the host of a popular cooking show.
The upside: In your hands you hold the secret to the machinery that runs the universe. That's heady stuff, which is good--because you're a head case, dude! But seriously. The media loves you. Your last book was a best seller that everyone bought but nobody read, which, as you know, is the very best kind. And while other guys from your class are playing with petri dishes, you're accelerating fictional particles at hyperspeed underneath the mountains of Switzerland.
The downside: None of what you do helps anybody understand anything.
The dark side: Tomorrow... next week... perhaps a year or two from now... some sharp kid is going to come along with a theory that takes a wicked detour directly from Einstein, goes completely around quantum theory, and explains the entire universe in simple, elegant terms that do not need a billion-dollar machine to prove. Your entire realm of endeavor will be relegated to a footnote on the twentieth century, the way the nineteenth was obsessed with phrenology--the science of reading head bumps.