How do people become so confused about the odds?

So after reading a thread recently about acting, and reading non-SDMB content about the music industry and professional sports, it strikes me that an absolutely tiny percentage of people achieve the pinnacle of these professions- rock star, movie/TV star or major league professional athlete, with the corresponding salaries and privileges.

And it seems fairly clear that there’s not a lot of room in the middle either- it’s not like some guy can make a 20 year career as a serviceable AAA baseball player making 65k a year. And most musicians and actors struggle to consistently pull in a similar amount of money year in and year out.

Yet you see people constantly devoting their lives to the absurd chance that they might be in that 1-2% who actually achieve that success, mostly through luck.

How do they get so confused? I mean, I was a good football player in high school, but I realized even back then that if maybe 2-3 guys off of the best teams in the state go to play college football at a Division I level, and then a handful guys off each of the best teams in Division 1 go on to play pro football, then my chances were very low for college football, and non-existent for the NFL. I didn’t quit or anything, but I had no illusions about the likelihood of actually playing in college or the NFL.

Yet there are millions of people each year who are convinced that they can be a movie star or rock star, or in the NBA or whatever, and bend their lives toward that goal, when in the long haul they’d be better off going and getting some sort of degree or professional certification that while not sexy or glamorous, would allow them to actually consistently earn money.

Live the dream, dude!

What sort of luck are we talking about? Luck that one has the body type and support to excel? Absent the hard work and time very few even with the right genes and environment are going to make the 1%. And if success is measured as reaching the 1%, then by definition only 1% will ever make it regardless of the numbers trying.

With regards to sport, you have a limited time when your body is at peak condition. You can always go back to school and learn accounting or learn a trade later.

Maybe they enjoy what they are doing?

How much you wanna make a bet I can throw a football over them mountains?.. Yeah… Coach woulda put me in fourth quarter, we would’ve been state champions. No doubt. No doubt in my mind.

It’s not a question of odds. These aspirations are about abilities and talent, and many people overestimate their abilities, often with the help of well meaning friends and family. If someone thinks they’ll be a rock star or NBA player just by showing up and getting picked at random then a good understanding of probability won’t help them much.

Life isn’t just about making money. Also how many people do you know who look back on their life and wish that they had done or at least tried something. Regrets aren’t always about what you have done but about things that you wish that you had done or at least tried to do.

You only get one shot at life, and whether you suceeed or not you are going to end up dead, so you might as well try what you want.

Back in '82, I used to be able to throw a pigskin a quarter mile.

Same reason people play the lottery.

My brother was a wanna be singer. (He sells insurance now.) From observing him and his cohorts, most of the people who want to “make it big” in entertainment are not very good at math, have overinflated sense of self, and like the perceived prestige of being an “artist”.

I’ve heard it (or something like it) called the Exceptionalist Fallacy.

All those other chumps are deluded and ignoring the odds, we are better than everyone else so we’ll succeed.

Chuck Norris can throw you even farther. :smiley:

That sounds about right. The aforementioned brother also tried to trade stocks telling me that “the market is inefficient” and for some reason he alone could exploit the inefficiency to make big bucks.

I know a number of professional actors, musicians, writers and artists. And they don’t have nice secure $65k a year jobs or make millions. They piece together a living from gigs and sales of their work, supportive significant others, friend’s couches, and odd jobs not related to their profession. When a book sells, they are a writer. Go through a period of non-productivity or no sales - they staff a help desk.

I don’t think any of them thought they were likely to end up being wealthy - they didn’t chose their profession to be wealthy - they chose it because that is what they want to spend their time doing - and they valued it enough to do it despite knowing the were going to piece together a living.

For the same reason people think they are going to get attacked by a shark if they go swimming at the beach just because they just watched Jaws one too many times. Risk analysis is not intuitive to the average human mind. Neither is “success analysis”.

Culturally, we are encouraged to be optimistic and to never let go of our dreams. Few adults have the balls to tell a kid–especially their kid–that their career aspirations are unrealistic.

This an interesting topic.

Conversation I had with a coworker some years ago:

Coworker: Damn. I can’t believe some of the stupid things Bill says. How’d he get to own his own company?

Me: Same reason.

Coworker: What?

Me: Look. Why don’t you and I own our own companies?

Coworker: Too risky. The great majority of new companies fail. It’s stupid to even try…oh wait…I get it.

Coworker: So Bill was too stupid to know he’d probably fail. So why didn’t he fail right away?

Me: Hard work and luck, I guess. Not ALL of them fail.

Coworker: But you’d think sooner or later the odds would catch up with him. How did he keep it successful for 30 years?

Me: He’s got us.

Well, it’s nice that you realized your skills weren’t of the level required for Division I or the NFL, but some people do have those skills, or are borderline. If they don’t try, they’ll never make it. Same with the arts.

The majority of friends I have who make some sort of living in “the Arts” do not have the same risk analysis methodology I have. Health insurance - not something they’ve had pre-ACA. Getting in enough quarters to qualify for Social Security - “you need to do that?” Getting kicked out of an apartment for back rent - someone will loan you a couch until you get back on your feet - or there is a girlfriend or boyfriend to move in with.

Me, I want to have a year of spending in my savings account and a nice 401k balance.

That’s if they realize how long the odds are but still think they can beat those odds.

If they just don’t understand how long the odds are for making it big, I’d attribute that to the Availability Error.

The problem is that there are way too many people that believe they are either clearly good enough or borderline. Not all of them are mistaken but the vast majority are. The problem is not understanding the odds well enough causes kids and their parents to spend a lot of resources that would probably be better used elsewhere.

For example, my nephews play very serious Little League baseball and they are quite good. Everyone on their team is good because it you have to compete to even get on it and most kids don’t even make it that far. The other players on similar teams are also equally good or better. I think most of them have enough sense to realize that they probably won’t become Major League baseball players but there is a constant theme among the parents. They want their child to be good enough to get a full athletic scholarship to a good school. A few of them will probably get one while most won’t.

However, even Little League baseball at that level is incredibly expensive and time consuming and it gets worse as the kids get older. The parents would be much better off in most cases by taking the money they spend and investing it in a college savings account and telling their child just to play for fun on the neighborhood team. That would also free up time for little things like academic study as well.

My youngest daughter is a gymnast and she is extremely good. She is currently ranked #1 in Massachusetts in her age group and won the state title last May. However, gymnastics is also very expensive and I just consider it a sunk cost that I don’t expect to ever get back in any way. I already told her that the second she stops enjoying it, she can just quit and do something else she is interested in. It is fine if she gets a gymnastics or cheerleading scholarship out of it but her mother and I don’t expect it and don’t put any particular pressure on her other than to enjoy it and do the best she can at whatever level she picks. She also has to balance gymnastics with academic work and other worthwhile pursuits with the latter taking priority.