ISLM #3 | Mike Schiller | Zen and The Mountain

“Climbing [mountains] is one of those places where I can find some sense of peace and harmony and solitude that is otherwise impossible to find in the rest of my life.”
– Mike Schiller

Mike Schiller is a big peak mountain climber, wilderness adventurer, and serial entrepreneur who has scaled all but two of the "Seven Summits", the highest mountains on every continent.

In 2001, he founded Venture Outdoors, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit providing gear and guidance to experience nature in urban environments that received national attention as a model of social innovation and entrepreneurship.  He is also a Wilderness EMT and has been teaching First Aid and First Responder courses for the Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) since 2002.  His adventures have taken him to nearly 40 countries, all 50 states, and 6 continents.

Mike is Princeton and Stanford MBA grad who, in addition to founding a successful nonprofit and a charter school, has started up four companies including Confluence Technologies and Room Leopard.  He was also CEO of the Green Building Alliance and President, Rainier Division, of International Mountain Guides.

I first met Mike nearly 15 years ago when an organization that I was running invested $50,000 in a bunch of kayaks and paddles to launch what is today Kayak Pittsburgh.   Since then, we've embarked on a variety of adventures including sharing a tiny 2-man tent at tracker school, a task complicated by Mike's size (former football lineman at Princeton) and my snoring.  Enjoy!

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Want to hear another episode from an athletic entrepreneur? In this episode, we talk to legendary endurance athlete coach and founder of Training Peaks Joe Friel about what experience and research has taught him about the limits of performance as we get older, why the mind might be the most important training tool, and his latest book, Fast After 50.

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY:  What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode?  Would you like a transcript of this episode?  Who else would you like to see appear on the show?  Please let me know in the comments!

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Learn more about Mike Schiller:  LinkedIn |  Facebook



  • The lure of mountain climbing. [2:30]
  • How Mike got involved in mountaineering. [3:50]
  • What makes for a great climbing experience. [8:11]
  • What a bad day on the mountain looks like. [10:07]
  • How NOLS motivated Mike to get outside and climb more. [14:44]
  • Why Mike started climbing the “Seven Summits”. [16:40]
  • Challenges of preparing to climb Aconcagua at 50+. [19:34]
  • How Mike defines success in climbing? [27:32]
  • How the journey of achieving peace on the mountain brings peace in other parts of your life. [29:00]
  • How getting older helps you to deal better with “failure”. [39:11]
  • Characteristics of a great adventure partner. [43:04]
  • Adjustments Mike is making to maintain a high level of performance as he gets older. [46:01]
  • Mike’s next adventure—The what and the why. [50:31]
  • Have we lost our sense of adventure? [57:12]
  • What Mike is curious about right now. [1:05:11]
  • Is “flow” addictive? [1:09:30]
  • Why getting out in nature accelerates the development of “wisdom”. [1:10:14]