In our information world we are inundated with statistics on every circumstance imaginable including crime rates, business success rates, graduation rates, and even inventor success rates. (More on the latter shortly).

For a variety of reasons, statistics are widely misunderstood and, consequently, misused.

High rates are good, right? Yes and no.

For example, US high school graduation rates hit an all time high of 81%  in the 2012-2013 school year as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). That is good, but of course could be better.

Also, US college graduation rate for full-time students in 2012 was 59%  as reported by NCES (graduation achieved within 6 years).

Approximately 73% of liberal arts and business majors graduate within 6 years, but as little as 50% of engineering majors do. The rates vary greatly from university, degree and situation so the statistics here have a rough averages.

Finally, regarding inventors, “success” rates are very difficult to measure accurately, but approximately 5% of all patent holders profit from their inventions.

So to sum up this statistical journey:

  1. 81% – high school graduation rate
  2. 59% – college graduation rate (in 6 years)
  3. 73% – liberal arts and business school graduation rates
  4. 50% – engineering graduation rates
  5. 5% – inventor (with patents) “success” rates

Based upon Las Vegas odds makers (high rates are good, low rates are bad), high school is the best path (better graduation rates than college) and for college grads, liberal arts and business is a better odds choice than engineering. Inventing is the worst choice of all.

Here is where high rates choice is not good.

According to the US Census bureau, the average engineer earns $93,000 per year and average visual and performing arts person earns $51,000 per year. Engineering can be quite lucrative.

More broadly, most high-income careers, because of the difficulties and challenges involved, also have very low “success” percentages.

Successful NFL football players make eye-watering annual salaries of millions of dollars.

However, according to Recruit757, approximately 70,000 college football players compete for 214 NFL draft slots each year and only 1.6% of players make it from NCAA to the NFL each year. The current 2014 NFL minimum salary is $420,000 – a very nice living. But the average NFL career is only 3 years long and only 10% last for 10 years or longer. Only a small fraction of all NFL players make many millions every year and most must plan on a second career supporting them after their NFL career has ended.

Likewise, the success rate of inventors is quite low, but a successful inventor can make a lucrative living from his or her invention and some become millionaires. Lori Greiner has over 100 patents and has grossed over $500 million from her inventions. She doesn't have to take hits and suffer concussions from 300 pound athletes on Sundays!

The successful inventors I know paid little attention to statistics when choosing to become an inventor. (If they had, like the Las Vegas odds makers, they would have chosen something easier.)

So, if inventing is for you, ignore the statistics, go for it!

Create your own statistics and good luck!