Student-Athlete Column: To Be an Outlier


Bell recently took up reading Malcolm Gladwell’s award-winning book, “Outliers.” (Courtesy of Flickr)

During my winter break, I decided to rekindle my passion for reading. I began with a book called “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. In his book, Gladwell talks about successful people and their not-so-straightforward paths to success.

Gladwell’s thesis is that opportunities make people successful. In his book, he goes on to justify how this statement is true. He talks about what makes NHL hockey players successful. If you look at their birth dates, you’ll realize that they were all born in the same month.

Thankfully, Gladwell is not saying that only people with January birthdays will become national hockey players. He explains how players who are born during this time are older while they were playing at an amateur level; therefore, they stand out and are given more attention.

Recruiters and agents liked them because they dominated their younger opponents. It wasn’t because they were better, but it was because they had the opportunity to overpower those who were smaller than them.

It is easy to see, then, how the metric for success can be skewed. Today, we see successful people as those who work hard and come from nothing, but Gladwell shows how this idea is not necessarily true. Of course you have to work hard as a professional athlete, but getting to such a level is due to a set of circumstances.

If I look at how I define success in my life, I see that a connection can be made. Athletics used to be my thing, especially track when I was younger. My mom was a track star (she always claims that she still holds records in her high school, coincidentally Cardinal Spellman in the Bronx). As the oldest, I was the first one in my family to start running, and I loved it. My brother soon followed suit, and my two younger siblings are starting to show love for it too.

Due to this set of circumstances, I have been training basically my whole life (excluding the period through middle school when running was not the first thing that I wanted to do). When I got to high school, the track team was small, so I was never afraid to compete. When it came to my senior year, my coach made me captain because I had the most experience, since I was the one and only senior on the team.

Now here I am, on Fordham Track and Field, because of the circumstances that I have been granted. Even as a walk on, I am still shocked every day that I am a part of something that I never saw myself doing. I really used to think I was an outlier because I didn’t think I would ever be able to compete at such a high level, but today, I am an outlier because I get the chance to compete with a team that will work hard on its way to success.