In this week’s words of wisdom series, world 110m hurdles champion David Oliver shares three things he’s learned in his long and successful career in athletics.

1. Embrace discomfort

“Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is the only way to experience success. An athlete needs to move out of their comfort zone. I first really experienced this in 2005 when I came down to Florida from Washington DC. It was tough. I bought a car from the side of the road for $800 and I had to fend for myself. 

“I had no mom to cook for me, or college scholarship to take care of things to make sure I was eating. I also had a lot of spare time on my hands and I quickly learned what you do in that spare time can lead to either success or your downfall. 

“On the track it was hard. I remember my first workout was a 9x300m and I was running it with a 400m runner by the name of Mitch Potter, who was a Pan American champion. Each set of 300m I’d be throwing up. I’d never experienced this kind of pain before, so it was important to quickly feel comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

David Oliver World Champion SPIKES ()

That moment when coach turns practice into prayer service...

2. The sport never stands still

“Every year, every race in this sport is like a new chapter of a book. It just keeps on moving. I can’t just pick up like it is 2010 again. It is now 2015 and in many ways track and field mirrors life. 

“Just because I did something well a few years ago, it does not just mean I am going to step back up and be successful. New people are coming on the scene every day, so it is important to treat every day like it is a new chapter.”

Oliver Parchment Pre Classic ()

Oliver won his first world championship aged 31 in Moscow

3. Make it happen

“The best lesson I learned was from my best friend who died in 2001 when I was a freshman in college. He had a favourite saying: ‘if it is to be, it is up to me’. Basically if you want it, you have to go out and get it. 

“I’ve never understood those people who always say they want to win the lotto, but never go to the store to buy a lottery ticket. You need to get after what you really want.”