Speaking to Christmas Abbott over the phone, you begin to understand why someone with this level of high energy and optimism would become a phenomena on social media. The celebrity trainer – who has lived in Raleigh for eight years now – has become a star within the world of CrossFit, with local studio Invoke bringing clients in from miles around to learn under her. First gaining notice from many within the sports world for becoming the first female member of a pit crew in NASCAR history, she exudes a make-it-happen drive that echoes back to a young adulthood that she describes as “a mess” – physically and emotionally – with habits of drinking and drug use learned at an early age.

After a year spent in Iraq, Christmas returned with changes to her life in mind that would go on to inspire thousands around the world to do the same. She preaches the key of balance: using small daily changes to heal the body and spirit. Her latest book, The Badass Life – which she will be on hand this afternoon from 12:00 to 2:00pm at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh to sign copies of and discuss with fans – is her month-long program based on those small daily changes in positivity to achieve a higher quality of life and self worth. It’s her mission to introduce the love of fitness to people, but ultimately to also love the skin you’re in and overcome negative thinking.

We had a chance to talk to Christmas before her Quail Ridge event today. A fascinating woman with a fascinating life, we touched on the many career paths that she has juggled in her life thus far; the cynicism that comes with people hearing the term branding advisor; and the difficulty in breaking bad habits.

Isaac Weeks: I had heard of you years ago, when you became the first woman to work a NASCAR pit crew for Michael Waltrip Racing, but you had fell off my radar since that first made the news. Now, looking at your bio, it seems so wild that breaking down that barrier is just one more random thing that you have gone and conquered during your life. With all of the varied careers and interests that you either have or had, how do you juggle them all successfully?

Christmas Abbott: I would say that is fair. When I was first starting out, it was just me for a while, and I would just work on them. I think its pretty incredible how you can section off periods of your year and work towards a project – I call them projects – and now I lean on my team to keep things organized and moving forward, just a lot of the busy work that used to bog me down and keep me from being able to move forward. The way that I do things is to jump in and just work on it. I’m always working on multiple projects at once, but I try to make sure that those are my focus. I’m not working on five things at one time, I’m working on two, maybe three. My team has been tremendous, but I try to finish up one thing before adding something new to my plate, which is sometimes hard because I like to work on new things so much. I weigh what I am working on in accordance to my company values and what my end goal can be. It helps give me clearer direction, instead of just working on whatever is shiny and fun that might pop up. It makes it easier to say no to some things.

IW: One of the things that you list on your website as a part of who you are is being a “branding advisor”, someone that can help others to basically brand themselves in order to get their name out there to others as passionate about certain areas of interest. That seems like something that just a few years ago would have been viewed cynically, basically as a new form of “selling out”. Have you received any pushback on that when talking to people?

CA: No. I think originally, like a couple of years ago, people may have looked at it as a conceited form of self-promotion. Now people look at themselves and they see it as an opportunity to brand and market, and thats what a lot of people are wanting to do. Instead of starting a company and trying to create branding opportunities for that company, people are realizing that they are that company, and they can do that for themselves. That’s where I come in, whether it’s for your company or yourself, I have been able to come in and use my expertise that I’ve gained over the years and apply it to expedite the process. People don’t laugh or scoff at the thought of branding anymore, because more folks have come to realize that they are their personal brand; that’s always been the case, its just that a lot of people are just now coming to realize it, and folks like myself are able to come in and apply our skills of understanding what people are interested in and what they want. We then have an understanding of how to mentor or coach a person or company to make sure that what they are putting out is aligned with their company morals or what they want to say, because a lot of times what you are saying and what you are doing doesn’t necessarily align.

IW: You also describe yourself as a lifestyle coach. Have you found many people that scoff at that title, just due to your being so young? I’m thinking of how some people react when they see a memoir from an 18-year-old sitting on a bookstore shelf, for instance.

CA: Well, I can tell you that I could have put quite a few things into a memoir at eighteen! I’m 35 now, so I’m not the eighteen year old fresh off the bus, bright eyed and bushy tailed. I’ve been fortunate enough, in a weird way, where I’ve had a lot of experiences that I can apply in a way to make people learn the same lessons I was able to learn. I think age can be influential in your perception of my experience, but when you look at what I’ve actually done and how long I’ve been living this lifestyle, I think you can kind of go, “Okay, she is a professional in her craft.” Whereas I had troubles from the ages of thirteen to twenty one-ish, and then at twenty-two I went overseas and twenty-nine I opened my own business, I’ve never had a lull in my life where I wasn’t trying to capture or experience something. I’ve actually never gotten any pushback due to my age, and I think it may be that when people read my information they find that it is applicable to their situation, whether they are eighteen or seventy-two. They can take bits and pieces of what I’m telling them from my journey and apply it to theirs, so that allows a lot of the naysayers to fade away, because it is applicable.

IW: The book advertises itself as 30 Amazing Days to a Lifetime of Great Habits – Body, Mind and Spirit, and it really hits on particular positive habits that deal with positivity. What led to you choosing these particular positive traits, and just with folks that you have already worked with before the book’s release, have people found these particular traits to be too hard? I know that’s silly, because it’s all about changing yourself and that’s never easy, but I’m thinking in particular about the task of going thirty days without saying anything negative. If someone slips up, do they have to start back at zero, or do you keep going?

CA: No! That’s one of the main things that I advocate: it’s progress, not perfection. On day one every expert was a beginner, and that goes for everything, whether its meal prepping or learning a new job. Whatever task you are beginning, you are going to get better, and you are going to mess up. When you mess up, that’s where the magic happens, as it’s where you choose to either brush it off and keep going or just quit. I tell my followers and my fans that it’s not failure unless you quit, and there’s a difference between stopping and quitting. Everyone will mess up, but as long as you are learning something and continuing to move forward with a goal, that is progress and that is a wonderful thing.

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