A determined and introspective hiker defies societal norms, embraces the unknown, and faces the terrifying challenge of forest fires while pursuing her dream of completing the Pacific Crest Trail.
My special guest is Christina Spinazola, who dared to listen to the quiet voice within her and embarked on a remarkable journey across the Pacific Crest Trail. Covering over 2650 miles from Mexico to Canada, she proved to herself and others that courage knows no boundaries. Compelled by her firsthand experiences of traversing the rocky terrains, today she passionately guides entrepreneurs to follow their instincts fearlessly. Her fiery spirit and empathetic coaching have inspired many to step out of their comfort zones and embrace the thrill of their unique adventures.
"Wisdom whispers. It's very quiet. You have to get really still to hear it. And it's usually terrifying when it says, like, 'Go hike across the state of Vermont.'"
- Christina Spinazola
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Jessica Fein: Welcome. I'm Jessica Fein and this is the "I Don't Know How You Do It" podcast, where we talk to people whose lives seem unimaginable from the outside and dive into how they're able to do things that look undoable.
I'm so glad you're joining me on this journey and I hope you enjoy the conversation.
Welcome back to the show. My guest today, Christina Spinazola, has the kind of I don't know how you do it story that I love. It's one of leaving everything behind to set out on a daring adventure. Christina spent 2022 hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, more than 2, 650 miles from Mexico to Canada with nothing more than a backpack and an intense commitment to the trip. Now, Christina coaches [00:01:00] entrepreneurs and adventurers to step more boldly into their leadership abilities and dance the line between excited and terrified. Christina's own motto is life is filled with obstacles. Don't let your mind be one of them.
It is my pleasure to bring you Christina Spinazola. Welcome Christina. How are you doing today?
Christina Spinazola: I am doing excellent. Thank you for having me.
Jessica Fein: You have such a great story to share and it's the kind of I don't know how you do it story that I love talking about because it's a story about an adventure you chose, but also an adventurous way of living that you chose that I know I look at and say, Oh my, I do not know how you did that or how you continue to do it.
And I know that so many of the listeners feel the same way. So I'm excited for people to hear your story.
Christina Spinazola: I'm such an advocate that while my adventure looked one way, everybody's adventure in life looks very different. And yet it still can be classified as adventure.
Jessica Fein: I will tell you that your adventure, the one that we're going to be talking about, it's [00:02:00] so petrifying to me to even think about that if I were ever going to invite adventure in, it would not be of that form.
So I'm glad to hear that adventure can take many forms. Before we get to that, let's tell people what it is that you did. So going backwards. It all started when you had what you call your first taste of freedom back in 2017 when you decided to backpack across the state of Vermont.
Christina Spinazola: That is correct.
That's where it all started. It's called the Vermont Long Trail. It's 273 miles long and it's actually the first long distance hiking trail in the U. S. So, it has some history to it, I'm in Massachusetts, so it was fairly local. Up until that point, I'd been doing a lot of hiking, not too much backpacking, I'd been out for maybe like two nights, three days, and went for the long trail, I think it took about 26 days.
Jessica Fein: What made you decide like, I'm going for it. This is what I want to do.
Christina Spinazola: That question that you just asked me, I feel like you could ask me about so many other choices in my life. And I keep coming back [00:03:00] to, I have been really practicing listening to what I want to do. I'm an advocate, Jessica, that the loudest voice in our head, nine times out of ten, is the voice of reason.
That voice is so loud and it did not make sense to do it, but I wanted to do it. So I created the time to have the experience that I really wanted to have. And of course, there's practicality to all those things. But decided this is something that was important to me, but I wanted to experience it. So I went for it.
Jessica Fein: Let me just make sure I'm understanding correctly. So if the voice that's loudest nine times out of 10 is the voice of reason, I'm guessing what you're saying is we need to quiet the voice of reason and listen to that other little quiet voice that's saying, wait, what about me?
Christina Spinazola: Go for it. I'm also an advocate that wisdom whispers.
It's very quiet. You have to get really still to hear it. And it's usually terrifying what it says, like, go hike across the state of Vermont.
Jessica Fein: How in the world do you get quiet enough to hear that voice? Because I know that I am somebody who's so practical, who really has loud voices saying, do what's expected, [00:04:00] do what's going to bring in the money, do the things that you prepare to do.
And I have little voices, but usually I'm like, shh, shh, you know, quiet down there, go back in your corner. How do you get still enough to hear that?
Christina Spinazola: Part of it, I think, is practice, and I think part of it is recognizing when we hear that voice. the voice of what I call wisdom, it's almost always inconvenient.
So it's so easy to kind of like put your headphones in and keep bopping about your busy life being like, I don't hear you. La la la la. And then to, to hear it and be like, Oh man, there's something there for me. It's not going away as much as I would like it to. And for me personally, like in a very tangible way, a lot of that is kind of stillness and quiet.
So I do a lot of hiking. I'll do a lot of walking. And just as I'm out and about thinking, I try to tap into like, where's the voice of reason here? And what is that deeper kind of wisdom of, of knowing?
Jessica Fein: I wonder if part of it also is the voice, no matter how quiet it is, that doesn't go away. So, for me, I wrote this book, it's coming out next year, but you know, I [00:05:00] was working on it and then I decided like, oh, I'm not going to do this, it's not, it's not happening and put it away and thought I was done with that, but then it kept popping back up in my head.
And so maybe it's a quiet voice, but a persistent one.
Christina Spinazola: Oh, absolutely. I, I think ideas kind of come knocking and it keeps coming back and it keeps coming back and it keeps coming back. I mean, one of my podcast episodes, I think I called unignorable whispers. You can't ignore them. I mean, I guess you can, you have the choice to, but it keeps coming back after a while.
That means something to the human mind. It's time. Do it.
Jessica Fein: Okay. So let's talk about what it is you did because I mean, hiking across Vermont is pretty major, but that's like just the prologue to your story because then you decide did that. Now, it's time to up the ante, right? And I am going to hike, you decided, all the way from Mexico to Canada. What?
Christina Spinazola: From Mexico to Canada. 2, 650 miles.
Jessica Fein: How long was that voice whispering? I have to ask, did you read Wild? Was that part of the inspiration? Because that's the only story I know of [00:06:00] somebody else who did this, right? With Cheryl Strayed. So, first of all, had you read the book, seen the movie, was that part of it at all?
Christina Spinazola: Yes, I had read the book. I am a huge avid reader. I'd also seen the movie. It did not factor into my desire to hike that trail. It was just, I've done a lot of reading about long distance hiking, and it happened to be one of the books that I read. But I first heard about the Pacific Crest Trail probably in 2013, I think, on YouTube.
Like, oh, I didn't know people did things like that. Kind of crazy. And after hiking the Long Trail in Vermont and really enjoying the experience, although, like, stipulation here, it was hard. Vermont was really challenging. I had a lot of knee pain. 18 of the 26 days I was hiking, it rained, and it was very muddy.
It was June. It was black fly season, so like you're wearing a head net trying to protect yourself from the bugs, and I just loved the simplicity of you wake up, you eat, and you walk, and wanting to do that for a longer period of time. I grew up here on the East Coast, and the Appalachian Trail, which is another long distance hiking trail, is running from Georgia to [00:07:00] Maine.
And a big place that, I mean, the most beautiful part of that trail, if anyone's listening has hiked it, they might disagree, is up in New Hampshire, where I do a lot of my hiking. So I wanted a different experience. I knew I wanted the experience of hiking for a really long period of time, having that type of challenge, that physical goal, that sense of accomplishment.
And I wanted to explore the West coast. So it felt like a cool way to do that through California, Oregon, and Washington.
Jessica Fein: Okay, I will tell you that the knee pain, the rain, and the flies coming at me, the having to wear the bug net, that would be like, okay, I did this, I'm done, not I'm going to even accelerate that adventure.
First of all, at the time when you start thinking about doing this longer adventure, you have a pretty big job, right?
Christina Spinazola: Yeah, I was in a corporate job in biotech sales and it was a great job, not just a good job. The people were great. The pay was great. My leaders were great. I by no means hated it and I was coaching on the side as well at that time.
So I have a coaching practice that I'm in full time now. I had to ask myself, am I [00:08:00] willing to walk away from this?
Jessica Fein: Literally and figuratively, right?
Christina Spinazola: Very much so. And kind of sit with some of those big questions and the discomfort of what my mind was doing around all of it. And ultimately, I knew I would have regret if I didn't do it.
And it felt like for the longest time, Jessica, that this dream of walking across the country on the Pacific Crest Trail was a pipe dream. Other people are doing this every single year, and I wanted to do it, and it didn't feel possible for me. That's something they do. That's not for you. So to get myself on board with that and turn it into a reality is still something that, it feels like a dream.
It's hard to process still.
Jessica Fein: Well, how did you do that? How did you decide it's not just other people that are doing it, but it's something that I can do?
Christina Spinazola: For me, you know, walking away, if we kind of look at it through that context, one of the things that really helped me in this empowerment, there was a moment in time to talk about this kind of whisper.
I was in a long term relationship before I left for that trail. We were together for just over seven and a half years, and there had been a whisper for a long time that things weren't working, and I kind [00:09:00] of kept ignoring it. I was really trying to make it work. I was doing everything that I could to create it to be what I want it to be, and it wasn't.
So I took an empowered choice there and I, I left that relationship. We were living together. Everything pointed towards, you know, marriage, house and kids. When I made that choice for myself, it was like something, oh, I have goosebumps just saying it kind of like woke up in me of, oh, you can choose that.
You can choose and you can choose powerfully. So looking at the Pacific Crest Trail is kind of the same thing of, well, if I chose to walk away from that relationship, there was nothing inherently wrong with it. He's not a bad guy. It just wasn't working for me. It's not what I wanted. It's like, I can also choose to walk away from this job that feels really important and let the pieces fall where they will.
And it's just this process of choosing, which in my mind is sometimes nonsensical, right? People would ask me all the time, like, how could you walk away from that job? Yeah. The answer was, I didn't feel like there was another option. I had to go to the trail. It chose me.
Jessica Fein: When it chose you, [00:10:00] you were going to do this solo, right?
That was the original plan.
Christina Spinazola: Yes, that was the original plan, much to the dismay of my family.
Jessica Fein: That was going to be my next question. Was your family like, no, this is not happening?
Christina Spinazola: They were very much like, no, this is not happening. To which I was very kindly like, well, it is. So I hope you start to process that soon.
I was out on a hike with a friend of mine who ended up joining me when I started sharing about the trail, about the experience. And it was interesting talking about my own decision making process with someone else. If you kind of got enrolled in my way of thinking of, Oh, that's interesting. So many people feel caged in by their life experience.
And all of a sudden you watch somebody else open the door to the cage. And there's kind of a natural curiosity there. I was very much drawn to the trail. The people I talk with, they say the same thing. Like I felt like I had to do it. I couldn't not do it. And then similarly, again, this friend of mine who I'd known for 10 years, it was just the opportunity and we both went for it.
So I did end up going with a friend and we met plenty of other people [00:11:00] out there. But the initial plan was it's me, myself and I in a backpack going out to walk from Mexico to Canada.
Jessica Fein: Okay, so now let's get into some of the brass tacks about this. First of all, how long does it take to hike from Mexico to Canada?
Christina Spinazola: On average, it takes between five and six months. Me, it took about five and a half months. The actual number was 156 days on the trail.
Jessica Fein: And did you love it? Or were there times where you're like, this is kind of stinks. What am I doing? I'm done.
Christina Spinazola: It is interesting. So I'm a mindset coach, right? I think about thinking a lot and I read one book and it talks about three different buckets of people that go out on a trail like this.
The first are the people that do a lot of physical prep, they have all the perfect gear, they've not been out too much, and they tend to fall away if they don't really know what they're getting into. I had the experience of hiking in Vermont before, I had a taste of this, I knew what it was like. And there's another bucket, right, of the people that know what they're getting into, and it starts to shift and they hate it, but they grin and bear it basically through the whole thing.
Drive determination and straight stubbornness to make it to Canada, but [00:12:00] they're kind of miserable the whole time. And that was not the bucket that I wanted to be in. I really wanted to be in the bucket of like, Hey, for five and a half months, I get to just go live and enjoy it. And that's not to say I had about five really bad days that I can recall.
Sometimes stuff happens, right? That's life. But I really enjoyed myself. I had a really fun time. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Jessica Fein: So then I will not ask you the question of is it now out of your system? Um, all right. So I go back and forth in my head as I think about this. There's so many practical questions and then of course there's all of the mindset questions, but I need to ask, what do you do about food when you're hiking for that long?
Christina Spinazola: Yeah. It's a great question. And as you get going, your metabolism gets quite high, right? So you get hungrier kind of as you hike, they call it hiker hunger, where it kind of becomes insatiable. Like you're just kind of hungry all the time.
Jessica Fein: I think I have hiker hunger all the time and I'm not hiking, right?
Christina Spinazola: Exactly. So many people do. But basically you start with so many days of food. You understand where your next town stop is. Which on the Pacific Crest Trail is [00:13:00] anywhere from three to seven days on average. So you get into towns, you grocery shop. You do not eat well, that is one thing I will say. It's a lot of looking like, you know, a five year old packed her backpack full of snacks.
Goldfish, lots of animal crackers, cliff bars, different granola bars. Dinner's the big one where most people have like mashed potatoes or ramen. Not the healthiest diet. Every three to eight days, you hop into a new town. You figure out how far is your next town, how many miles is it, around how many days will it take you to get there, and how many days of food do you think you need?
Jessica Fein: So you get up, you eat your breakfast, and you walk. What is going through your mind? Is your mind just thinking lots of thoughts, or do you get into this place of just quiet in your head? I just... Wonder what so much time without external stimuli, what is that like?
Christina Spinazola: I personally found it incredible. I enjoy quiet, like I was just saying to you right, listening to that whisper and kind of listening to your own wisdom and figuring some things out.
Now, I'll make it [00:14:00] really clear to you, I wasn't someone who was running from anything to go to the trail. There are people that use these type of experiences, right, that are like, I'm in a transitory phase in life, I want to figure something out, I'm out there to find me. And I was like, I just love hiking, I just want to experience this.
I can only speak to my experience on kind of what your mind does. Plenty of other people listen to music the whole time they hike, or they listen to audiobooks or podcasts. That was not me. I didn't listen to nearly anything kind of audio wise while I was out there. For me, it was just picking up different facets of my life and kind of exploring them.
So I would have a lot of active thinking time and reflection time of where I am, where I'm headed, what I want. And at the same time, it's almost like a movement meditation, right? Where your mind is just kind of quiet and you're just being, you're existing and you have this goal of just hiking for the day.
So I went back and forth between those two a lot, but I did a lot of curious wondering, like asking big questions without needing answers to them.
Jessica Fein: Did you come up with some answers? Did you end the [00:15:00] trail with any big breakthroughs to things that you had been pondering?
Christina Spinazola: I would say I've had a lot more of that learning and reflection after the trail's been completed of what it taught me.
I wouldn't say at the end, I was like, this is what I learned. There were a handful of those things for sure, but some of the biggest lessons were really Slowing down can help you speed up. I felt like that was a slow period of my life where, you know, even on a climb, there was one particular section of the trail that for 26 miles, you're climbing up the mountains.
Fighting gravity for 26 miles is tiring. Yes. And instead of, you know, taking a moment to just catch your breath for a minute and keep going, I would stop. Take a real break. Maybe an hour, have lunch, have a snack, and then keep moving, which would help a lot, which for me was very metaphorical of life of when you really stop, not just for a minute, not just for a meal, not just for a quick conversation with a friend, but really give yourself a bit of time to slow down and refocus and [00:16:00] reprioritize, it can help you get so much further so much faster. But we, we fear slowing down.
Jessica Fein: We absolutely fear slowing down. I know I fear slowing down for sure. And I think that that is definitely something even in society. It's go, go, go, get to the next thing, get to the next thing. I think that that's a really important lesson.
What was just some of the scary things that happened to you while you were hiking?
Christina Spinazola: The biggest challenge I would say was actually the forest fires. If you're from the West Coast, you're probably fairly familiar with the forest fires. I was not. I've never been in that situation before. And when we were in Washington state, we got first bumped off the trail by a forest fire in Northern California.
Just about 1600 miles in was our first fire impacting the trail and closing that. And then up in Washington, we had an experience where we had hiked into territory. You could see wildfire smoke all around us. And there's minimal information you have as a hiker in the middle of the wilderness, right? We saw some rangers that morning.
We were told everything was under control and okay. And by the end of that [00:17:00] day, the trail was closed for fire danger. And we ended up hiking all through the night to get out of the trail closure. I think it was about 43 miles with over 10, 000 feet of elevation gain in a day just to get back and out of safety.
I mean, we watched Jessica, like you're staring at a forest fire and you're watching individual trees go up like matchsticks. Like you can watch this flaring effect while knowing your only way out is with your own two feet. Like you have to keep going. There's no option.
Jessica Fein: And when you're in that situation, is there any way for you to be in contact with anybody else?
I was going to say anybody on land, but you of course were on land, but you know what I mean? Could you be in touch with anybody or are you just totally on your own? What if you needed to reach somebody because of emergency?
Christina Spinazola: So I did have a Garmin device, which is a GPS satellite communicator. So you can communicate.
The challenge was by the time this was going on, it was about 8 p. m. Pacific time. So my family on the East Coast was already asleep. They weren't checking [00:18:00] anything. And same on the West Coast, it was fairly late. We knew the only option, you know, pending, we were not in immediate danger where you can hit an SOS button and request like helicopter support was just to keep hiking.
We were tired. It had been a long day. Our feet hurt. Lots of blisters at this point. We weren't planning to hike that many miles in a day. Not many people do. It was just making the best decision you can at the time, mitigating risk, sticking together. I was with two of my closest hiking friends at that point, and we just said to each other, we're in this together.
We're getting to the, you know, safe zone. We don't even need more information right now. We just have to get back to safety. And we just kind of kept focusing and following that. So it was almost a 24 hours worth of hiking that day. And we slept for a handful of hours, but we were just at the safe spot and we had to get out really of that whole environment, right, that whole section of trail.
So we slept for a couple of hours just until the sun came up a bit. I mean, it's smoke [00:19:00] everywhere. We had buffs, which is basically like a little scarf that goes over your face to try to keep some of the smoke out.
Jessica Fein: And that didn't make you want to give up? No. Where is it that you end the trail, where does it end, and what did it feel like when you crossed the finish line, so to speak?
Christina Spinazola: So most people typically go northbound. So they hike from Mexico to Canada, and you finish in Manning Park, Canada, and you can go into the Canadian province. Last year, because it was the kind of final year of the COVID stuff, they weren't allowing hikers to cross the border. And Jessica, even if they were, there were forest fires in the Canadian side.
So we couldn't cross that way either. Everyone's hike looks a little bit different. And because of the fire logistics. I actually ended up finishing, it's called the flip flop, where you hike north for a while, and then you jump north, hike some more, and then come back down and fill in some gaps. We finished at Timberline Lodge in Oregon, which is a beautiful space near Mount Hood.
I still have some of my favorite [00:20:00] photos are from, like, the true moment that I finished the trail. I feel emotional now just even thinking about it. There is nothing like accomplishing a huge goal that you have when you're unsure you'd be able to do it. You really wanted to, and to know that all of this work, all those moments of difficulty, all the moments that weren't, you know, pure bliss, because there were plenty of those, it is nearly indescribable.
It's just a state of emotion is the best way I can put it. So many things all at once.
Jessica Fein: What do you do after that? I mean, it sounds like that must just be such a high. And how long does it last? And then how do you go back to quote unquote, the real world?
Christina Spinazola: Yeah, we talk a lot about calling it the normal world.
Right? Because we kept trying to remind ourselves that what we just did was very real for us. And I remember flying home and it felt like I had this secret. I was sitting on the plane. I was like, nobody knows what I just did. One of the emotions actually that came after the trail, which I didn't expect and really kind of caught me off guard was a sense of [00:21:00] grief.
I had never had a dream come to completion in that same way before. Where it's something I look forward to and anticipated with so much love and excitement for so long and knowing that chapter was closed and behind me kind of brought the question of like, well, what's next? Grief is a byproduct of something that we love really deeply.
So it took me a while to navigate that and figure out what to do with it. And that seems like there was something that had to be done with it. There wasn't. It was just a natural grieving process of letting it be difficult and coming back into my life and getting my family and friends to see kind of this new version of who I was and kind of reacquainting with them in a way.
Jessica Fein: What was the new version of you like? What changed about you over the course of this experience?
Christina Spinazola: It's such a big question. And I think one of the biggest pieces that really changed for me was just seeing what is capable of a human body. And the body is just an extension of the mind. The [00:22:00] mind will quit before the body does.
So I started asking even bigger questions of what else is possible? What else can I do? What else is out there for me? What else can I choose? What else scares me? What else... Do I want, so I'd say I became even more so and I was very much so before I left possibility minded and my understanding of that really deepened and grew.
Jessica Fein: What came to mind when you asked yourself those questions when you said, what's next? What else am I capable of?
Christina Spinazola: That it can be really scary to admit things that we want because if you believe they're possible and if you really want them, it becomes up to you to go create them, right? To make it happen.
That's when I started really looking at some questions around career. I like my job previously, as I mentioned. And I knew it wasn't where my heart was. So following yet again, am I going to go back to that for a while? And can I love my reasons for going back to that? Or what do I want next? So some of the, the questions and answers that were important for me were around community.
I had just spent so many months kind of [00:23:00] living with this like mobile tribe where you have connection all the time, super supportive. If you miscalculate food, And you're going hungry. If one hiker has extra food, you're going to split that. There's no questions asked.
Jessica Fein: And it's a community where you're aligned on such a core thing.
I mean, by definition of the fact that you have met each other doing this thing, you have such a gigantic thing in common.
Christina Spinazola: Yeah, there's this shared thread of like, you're also crazy enough to leave your life behind and go hike for six months.
Jessica Fein: I'm glad you said it. I wasn't going to say it quite that way.
So thank you. I love what you're saying so much about asking the questions and listening to the whisper and that line of thinking. But what happens when we feel like we're not in a place in our lives where we necessarily have the freedom or the flexibility to listen to that voice? It's one thing if we are kind of just responsible for ourselves.
But what happens when we're responsible for a family, let's say, and we are hearing a whisper and we know it's time to [00:24:00] change and where there's something out there that scares us and excites us. And yet we've got huge responsibilities. What do we do?
Christina Spinazola: It's a really good question. And that answer is going to differ for everybody.
And so I can answer on my perspective of this question, which is kind of responding with another question. What can you do to set yourself up? To be able to do that thing. So if there's something in the way right now, and a lot of times that can be finances, how can you plan for it? How important is it for you to really accomplish and how important is it for you to make sense to other people?
Jessica Fein: What do you mean by that?
Christina Spinazola: I know in my experience, walking away from both my relationship and the job that I was in, the career that I had, it didn't make sense to a lot of other people. It barely made sense to myself. But how comfortable are you with holding that unknown and not needing to be understood by the choices that you make?
We're nervous about other people judging us, but it comes down to a lot of self judgment. What will I think of myself if I make this choice for me? And there are plenty of people that hear [00:25:00] that whisper and never act on it. I don't want to say that's a bad thing. I don't want to add morality into it that, you know, people are bad if they don't choose to follow a dream or choose to follow something that doesn't make sense.
But to really figure out and ask yourself the big questions. How okay are you if you don't do that? Yeah. How important is it to you?
Jessica Fein: What if you have the dream and you have kids? How can you pursue the dream while you are parenting?
Christina Spinazola: People take this in different directions. I met two different families out on the Pacific Crest Trail last year.
One family, they have an Instagram called The Daily Walk. Their last name is Daily, D A L E Y. And they had kids that were three children. The oldest was six.
Jessica Fein: Oh my goodness. So some of their backpacks actually had kids in them, I imagine.
Christina Spinazola: So it's getting creative again, right? If it's really important to you, and I see this all the time as a coach, when something's important to you, you can find a way to do it.
You can create that to exist if it's really important to you. [00:26:00] So it can be really the question of how important is it to you? And I think it's very easy to discredit how important things are to us. And sacrifices happen and compromises absolutely happen as well. You know, I'm not an advocate of recklessly and self selfishly just navigating the world.
But when something's really important to you and allowing it to be important to you, then you can find creative ways to find solutions.
Jessica Fein: One of the things you talk about is the difference between intention and commitment. What is the difference?
Christina Spinazola: Yeah. So for me, I had always had an intention to hike the PCT.
I wanted to, I had a desire and wanting, wishing, hoping, that doesn't do a whole lot. I hiked the PCT when I made a commitment to do it. I said, this is happening. I don't know what will have to happen in the meantime, right? So I had to have all these conversations when I tell my boss, I could get fired on the spot.
I don't know. I had no idea. There are so many possibilities that existed. But [00:27:00] when I decided I was committed to that, it didn't matter what my feelings were doing, right? In the same way with your hiking, if I have a commitment of hiking from Mexico to Canada, It doesn't matter when I wake up in the morning and I'm tired and I don't want to, right, that I feel lethargic or irritated that day.
It's the commitment that drives that allows things to take place and happen. And this can be a very black and white perspective and it is for a purpose. We know when we're committed to something because the result is there and we're actively working towards it. When commitment stops driving, usually what drives instead is our feelings.
And they say, right, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, right?
Jessica Fein: A dream without a plan is just a fantasy, right? So maybe that's kind of the intention versus commitment. And I think about it a lot personally in terms of language. So for example, just, you know, earlier we were talking about the book, but I think there's a big difference between saying, I'd like to write a book.
I want to write a book. I dream of writing a book and saying, I am writing a book. Because once you have [00:28:00] established this is what you're doing, once you have owned that, and used that language, I think it just shifts your whole perspective on it.
Christina Spinazola: Language is the most powerful tool that we have to create our lives, period.
It is such a chisel. It's really bringing the action. We can want, wish, hope, dream, desire. Ultimately, the thing that moves us closer in that direction is commitment.
Jessica Fein: Right. And I think that, that, you know, you could substitute anything in there, you know, I want to lose 10 pounds is one that, great. I would like to lose 10 pounds.
I'm going to lose 10 pounds. Now we start to think about, okay, how am I going to do it? What are the steps that I'm taking? Because I am going to lose 10 pounds, right? So I do think that it is so much about how we are framing things for ourselves. Another thing that you talk about is finding the line between excited.
Christina Spinazola: Yes, it's my favorite line to jump back and forth between because those emotions really live together. Right? So many of us, when we're [00:29:00] really fearful or nervous of something, maybe it's a big conversation with a partner or something we want to do, a dream that we have. And when you actually start making the moves, turn it into a reality, there's fear there.
And on the other side of that fear is excitement. I was so nervous. And for a context, right? I hiked from Mexico to Canada and I had back surgery in 2019. So I wasn't sure my physical body would hold up, and it was very late 2019, so it was basically 2020, and it was a big question that I had, but I also knew I wanted to find the answer.
I could think about the answer. Can I do it? Could I do it? Or I can just go test and to find out, Oh, apparently I can't do it. Look at that. And when we do those things and we have these moments of navigating terrified and excited and we do something successfully that we weren't sure we could do the result of that is confidence.
Seeing that confidence is a result, it's not a prerequisite. I was not [00:30:00] convinced it was totally possible or that I'd succeed. And on the other side of that, that's where you keep asking that bigger question, like, well, what else can I do? Well, what else can I do? I
Jessica Fein: love thinking about confidence as what you end up with, not what you need to start.
That's such an interesting way to think about it because I would think, boy, you must have had a boatload of confidence to be able to go off and do this,
Christina Spinazola: So often we have that when I, then I. Like when I have the confidence, then I'll, you know, wear a bathing suit to the beach. When I have more money, then I'll go donate it to charity.
When I have this, then I'll do that. But to see like, Oh, confidence is the outcome. We do the thing, you take something away from it. It's not needed to get going, even though it seems like it does.
Jessica Fein: Yeah. And so often it's our mind that stops us, right? So how do we stop our mind from stopping us doing the thing?
Christina Spinazola: Our minds feel so real to us, right? When we're in it, we can [00:31:00] feel our thinking happening in real time. Our feelings are basically just a byproduct of the way that we're thinking about the world. And to not let it stop you is to see nervous or doubtful meant I shouldn't do it. I wouldn't have done it. And I was like, I'm allowed to be nervous.
I'm allowed to be doubtful. That doesn't mean I shouldn't try.
Jessica Fein: But then how do you know when maybe your mind is stopping you for good reason, right? I mean, maybe you want to try something that's totally bonkers and, you know, not safe and for whatever reason isn't actually a good idea. How do you discern the difference?
Christina Spinazola: What would you say is good reason?
Jessica Fein: Safety.
Christina Spinazola: Yeah, right. So when looking at things around safety, I would just explore a counter direction. Most people aren't making decisions or holding back because of safety. Right? Like physical true safety for their own life. It's perceived safety around like judgment or fear of what other people will think.
So it's [00:32:00] seeing reasons and excuses are the same thing just with different labels. They're just things that we think. That's it. I mean, we can't really get past that. That we perceive the world through a lens of our own thinking. So I just tell people you really need to love your reason. And whatever that is, take it and run with it.
Sometimes there is fear that's worth overcoming. And sometimes there's fear that's not worth overcoming. Right. And that's so dependent on the individual. Sometimes you just want to show yourself that you can. Yeah, right. It kind of opens that door into I didn't want to, and I did. So I have the belief that if other things are important to me here, I can write hiking across the country is not for everybody.
It's not something I would recommend and say everybody needs to do. Although at the same time. Many people say, right, work a manual labor job in your life, or you must work like retail service, that type of perspective. And I always say, I do think everybody should spend a night in a tent. You learn so much about your [00:33:00] perspective of the world when all of a sudden you're in a different environment and you're not used to it, kind of what your mind does.
Your mind is excellent at creating fear.
Jessica Fein: Do you need to spend the night in the tent by yourself?
Christina Spinazola: No, I wouldn't say so.
Jessica Fein: I've spent nights in tents. That I could do. I don't think I could do it a night in the tent by myself, all alone, you know, if there wasn't somebody in a tent right next to me.
Christina Spinazola: Yeah, right.
And that perceived safety involves somebody else's here. Things can't go too wrong.
Jessica Fein: But you know, I mean, I often find that it is the things that we're not expecting, right? Like this summer, there's been a lot of news about black bears in just kind of regular places coming out of nowhere and like, you know, eating the guy at the cafe kind of thing.
It's usually not the thing you're scared of. The thing that happens is usually not the thing that you were afraid of in the first place.
Christina Spinazola: This is getting into a little bit of the misunderstanding I work with some clients around as well, that it's never something outside of us that creates fear, right?
Seeing a bear, bears can't create fear in people. It's just not possible. If I'm a, I don't know, a bear [00:34:00] biologist.
Jessica Fein: Is there such a thing as a bear biologist?
Christina Spinazola: I mean, I'm sure there are. And you know, a bear is out in the yard. I'm going to be fascinated by that. I'm like, Oh my gosh, look outside. Like that's a bear.
Meanwhile, somebody else can see the same bear and it creates a very different experience for them. And it's because we run it through our lens of thinking in the same way at the forest fire for me, right? That created some fear for me, but it's because my mind registered that and perceived that as a threat to my wellbeing.
Whereas the, you know, firefighter, they look at that same fire I'm looking at Well, time to go to work today.
Jessica Fein: That's fascinating. So what is your next big adventure going to be? What's the thing that's whispering to you now?
Christina Spinazola: One of the things I did when I came home was I did decide to go full time in the world of entrepreneurship.
So I'm in my coaching practice full time. And that was the last big choice that I've made. And from that place, I'm bringing actually clients into the backcountry this year, which is fun. That was another big adventure I'm playing with. And I have a couple programs that I'm working in with my own coaches this [00:35:00] year overseas and doing some solo international travel.
So that's been the next thing that's coming my way.
Jessica Fein: Well, if people want to read about not only your adventures, but your way of thinking about all of this. Where do they find you?
Christina Spinazola: I have a website, which is christinaspiazola.com. I have a podcast called walking towards fear that WTF moment of, Oh, let's go make it happen.
Jessica Fein: I'm so glad you brought that up. And so, yes, I do want to tell everybody, you should absolutely check out this podcast. WTF. Christina has so much to share about literally and figuratively walking toward fear and what is waiting for us on the other side. So absolutely check that out. And Christina, it's been such a pleasure talking to you.
Christina Spinazola: Yes, thank you for having me. This has been such a fun conversation. Having a moment just to relive again for me, something that I'm really proud of, has been a gift to me. So thank you.
Jessica Fein: Here are my takeaways from the conversation with Christina. Number one, wisdom whispers. Our job is to be quiet enough to [00:36:00] hear it.
Number two, slowing down can help you speed up. Number three, it can be really scary to admit things that we want, because if you believe they're possible and you really want them, it's up to you to go create them. Number four, it's not the thing outside of us that creates the fear. Remember that bear biologist.
And number five, my favorite, confidence is a result of doing the thing. It's not a prerequisite for doing the thing. I hope you enjoyed the episode.
For more, sign up for my newsletter at www.jessicafeinstories.com. Thanks so much. Have a great day.