Elite British climber and Peak-Performance Coach, Mike Weeks lives in Venice, LA and has clients ranging from A-list celebrities, to trauma victims in the slums of Haiti and drug addicts on the streets of London, Mike is one of the world’s most extreme change agents. He is an elite climber, who for many years went rope free on rock faces around the world. Mike is also a successful TV and Film producer, and the creator of ‘Jack Osbourne, Adrenaline Junkie’. He’s compiled his teachings in a life-changing new book called Un-train Your Brain: A Formula for Freedom.
When I track him down he’s in his garden at home just outside LA, where he watches a cat prowling the edge of his kids’ trampoline.
What’s your fondest memory of climbing?
My first climbing trip outside of Bristol was to Tremadog and Llanberis in North Wales. I had been climbing for less than a year and my new climbing partner encouraged me to try a famous E2, called ‘Vector’. I had no real reference for the grades and so jumped on it with a smile. The climbing was at the very edge of my limits, in fact, beyond them if the amount of near falls are a gauge. Twenty five years later I can still feel the moves that I had to make on the crux, which were driven by fear, exhilaration and teenage enthusiasm. I made it to the cave belay as my whole body shook from the exhilaration of such an intense experience. It was a divine like moment that triggered a life changing addiction to the sport.
What have you been able to achieve with your climbing career?
It’s impossible to quantify the answers to that, in so much as my whole attitude, approach and relationship to the world changed dramatically through climbing. I came from a background that was laced with crime, violence and idiotic, limiting beliefs about the world. Within a few months of climbing (often rope free) I had experienced a state of freedom that directed all of my energy, attention and resources towards wanting to feel that same way every day. There’s also an element of the climbing culture that was profoundly supportive of people from all walks of life. No gate keepers existed to prevent a kid from a lower class background to join the party. I think that degree of openness allowed me trust that the world had a place for me, and a place in which once you leave the ground, the only real rule is to keep yourself alive.
What else do you value in life?
During a decade of dirt-bag style, world travel as a climber, I made the decision to never waste time in pursuits I didn’t enjoy. For the most part that has remained true in my business ventures, coaching, adventures and relationships. There’s no aspect of my life that I don’t hugely value, because if there was, I’d find a strategy to change it. If we’re grading what I value though, Fatherhood and guiding two young boys is more important to me than anything I have ever experienced. My three and half year old son now loves climbing and when we take off to Joshua Tree for a weekend of scrambling and soloing up the boulders I get to re-experience climbing (and life) through the filters of someone who lives every little move on the rock with pure delight. I also fly fish, which is more about walking quietly in nature than it is about catching fish. Being in wild, unspoiled places feels essential to my emotional wellbeing.
You trained and coached Jack Osbourne to complete some jaw-dropping feats for his TV show, ‘Jack Osbourne: Adrenaline Junkie’. What were the highs and lows for you and Jack during that period?
Jack and I were surfing only yesterday and reminiscing afterwards how insanely fortunate we had been to get paid to go on a two year adventure jolly! The highs were seemingly endless – getting to travel and do all these incredible challenges with best friends. Standout moments for me were topping out on El Capitan, finishing the Marathon des Sables, spending time with the Marathon Monks of Mount Hei and learning to sky dive. Lows were running the bulls in Pamplona, which I regret hugely; getting Dysentery in India whilst Kushti wrestling and watching Jack drop out of the Marathon Des Sables because he’d trained with someone in LA instead of me in the UK. I’d put money on Jack and I going back some time and completing it together, it gripes him that he didn’t finish it.
Are there any challenges which remain out of your grasp at present?
In climbing I’d still like to free climb El Cap without falling and I had plans for attempting it later this year, but new coaching commitments have taken precedence. The really elusive challenge for me is surfing. I’m both hooked by it and disgusted by how hard it is. I want to ride some twelve footers but presently I have more chance of riding a unicorn! My other challenges are mostly business and coaching based. I’m co-founder of a company that intends to eradicate PTSD amongst Military, Fire Fighters, Police and Ambulance services. Our team will be working to achieve that outcome for quite some time to come.
Is there anything about you which we’d be surprised to learn?
One of the services I provide is the creation of covert interventions like those in the movie, ‘The Game’. Some of the work we’ve completed would be stranger than that fictional story. But, as they say, that is another story.
What’s your party trick?
I can speak to dead people. Or at least I’m pretty adept at using ‘cold reading’ techniques to make people think I can.
What do you believe is the most important thing for people to learn if they’re trying to create a new life for themselves?
Don’t believe anything. The sooner people stop believing, the more likely they will be able to use real-world feedback and success/error information to create solutions to the hurdles in their lives.
And the biggest psychological hurdle to overcome?
All of the stories and modelled behaviours you likely swallowed as a kid from your earliest influencers. No version of reality is accurate, but some are less accurate or useful than others. Look at any silly beliefs and assumptions you may have accepted from others and go about disproving them to yourself every day.
Where’s your favourite place to climb?
Mount Arapiles in Australia. I lived there for a few years and feel more connected to that land and rock than anywhere else in the world. I also have a strong connection to Pembrokeshire in Wales.
Name a place that remains on your climbing bucket list..
I went to Patagonia a few years back and walked to the bottom of the climbers approach to Cerro Torre. My wife was five months pregnant at the time so we were just trekking and fly fishing. I’m really keen to go back and climb there, just as soon as my youngest son is old enough to appreciate the views and join me in fly fishing on rest days.
I’m coming to The Life Event next month, 2 days where you coach people to think differently to reach their potential and over achieve. What can I expect from it?
The Life Event creates a very predictable outcome for participants, so I have no hopes for it, only predictions. That is that participants get to learn a number of the most useful and effective ways to enhance their behaviours, deal with pressure, access clarity in any environment, and essentially learn and alien superpower, which is to be able to decide how you feel whenever you need to. It’s also a great two days of stories, laughs and life changing epiphanies. I wish I’d have had access to this kind of training when I was a full time climber.
What’s your personal training regime?
I’m forty one now, so my main focus for performance is more towards retaining health, resilience and maximising enjoyment. My desire or need to train six days a week is fortunately behind me. However, I aim to climb, surf, ride and throw a few backflips on my trampoline long into the future. So I stretch a lot more than I used to, usually at night, with an infrared light on my skin. I’m hugely disciplined in what i eat, though being an advocate of high fruit sugar, high simple carb, high protein, it’s easy to stick to such an eating style. I climb twice a week at a wall, hit my local gym for squats, deadlifts and bench press, and I delight in a minimum of an hour each day of wrestling, chasing and bouncing on our trampoline with my kids. I also engage in the world’s most dangerous sport – cycling in LA.