When you grow up, you can be anything you want. From the day we’re born, many of us hear this inspirational platitude from well-meaning family members. It’s kind, it’s hopeful – and statistically speaking, it’s not completely accurate.

In the spirit of realism, we calculated the odds of achieving some of the loftiest goals: growing up to be famous, becoming a professional athlete, and snagging a top CEO job. Can the average person ever bet on making it big? Check out our comparison guide to find out.

DEATH VS. SUCCESS: WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?


The good news: The likelihood that you’ll perish in a plane crash, become shark bait, or be struck down by a lightning bolt is actually pretty slim. The bad news: Across the board, you’re much more apt to die in a variety of unusual ways than you are to achieve one of the world’s most elite callings.

Want to be on the big screen? Your odds of starring in movies are less than 1 in 1.5 million – and you have a better chance of drowning as you relax in a warm bath. If you’re an aspiring politician, consider this: You’re 10 times more likely to die in an airplane crash than to become president, and you’re 3.4 times more apt to die from a lightning strike than become a member of Congress.
With 1 in 20 million odds, achieving sainthood is by far the least likely goal of all. You’re nearly twice as likely to be a shark attack victim than be canonized. Why? For one thing, there are numerous requirements to become a saint, including leading a life of “heroic virtue” and performing a miracle from heaven after death.

LONG SHOT: THE PRO ATHLETE PROBABILITY

“Practice makes perfect.” Since the day children first pick up a hockey stick, shoot a basketball, or toss a pigskin, they hear the inspirational adage from parents and coaches. But it turns out the odds of going pro might be slimmer than you think – even for someone who excels in high school or college sports.
There are over a million high school football players in the U.S., but only 256 fortunate football stars go pro each year. That means the odds of being drafted are 1 in 4,233. The likelihood of making it to the NBA is even slimmer: Only 1 in 11,171 men’s high school basketball stars dribble their way into the pros. Hey, kids: With these kinds of odds, you might want to come up with a plan B – and finish your homework before you head to practice.

THE CHANCES OF BEING THE BIG BOSS


For some, running an entire company is the ultimate achievement. A CEO is the kingpin of any company, in charge of making top-level decisions, forming and implementing strategies, and managing operations. What’s the likelihood of becoming not just a CEO, but a Fortune 500 CEO? Not great.

Even if you hold an MBA, you have just a 1 in 135,000 chance. If you graduate from law school, your odds decrease to 1 in 385,714. And if you have an engineering degree, your likelihood of being the big boss is slightly lower than a colleague with an MBA at 1 in 163,636. Out of the three commonly held Fortune 500 CEO degrees, those with an MBA have the best chance.
Still want to give it a shot? Experts stress the importance of attaining an education, being driven and ambitious, and possessing top-notch communication skills. The preferred career path often involves a stint in consulting and experience in the operations department, all the while forging vital connections with co-workers and bosses. However, the odds remain slim – so it never hurts to have a backup plan.

CONCLUSION

Numbers don’t lie: The likelihood of the average person becoming famous, making it in professional sports, or getting a Fortune 500 CEO job are astronomically slim. But some odds are better than others.

  • Achieving fame through the rare careers we examined is no easy feat. Americans have a 1 in 10 million chance of becoming president, a 1 in more than 1.5 million likelihood of starring in movies, and a 1 in 600,000 chance of being a member of Congress. The best bet? Launching a startup, with 1 in 200 odds.
  • Winning a spot on a pro sports team is definitely a long shot. High school players have a 1 in 4,233 chance of playing pro football and a 1 in 11,171 and 1 in 13,015 chance of becoming an NBA or WNBA player. Hockey has the best odds (1 in 598) followed by baseball (1 in 659).
  • The odds of becoming a Fortune 500 CEO are even slimmer than succeeding in pro sports. People with MBAs have only 1 in 135,000 chance of becoming a Fortune 500 CEO. Meanwhile, their fellow employees with an engineering or law school degree have an even smaller chance.

Even if the odds are slim that you will become a CEO, president, or pro athlete, it's certainly not impossible.

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