Chip Gaines and wife Joanna Gaines became stars with their HGTV series, Fixer Upper. Now in his book, Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff, Chip shares the story of how he got where he is, ponders what life might be like after the series ends, and what makes him jump out of bed in the morning.
Q: Tell us the story behind the somewhat unconventional photo choice on the cover of your book. I ask because I think it says a lot about who you are and your philosophies on life.
That was actually a candid shot a buddy of mine took on the way to the book cover photoshoot. It wasn’t planned or staged, so to speak, like all of the other cover photo options were and that’s why I liked it. We got a bunch of great shots that day, but I kept coming back to that one. It was just so raw. I even asked everyone at the office to vote for their favorite three photo options, because I did want to hear their opinions. And even though this one came in dead last in that office poll, it still seemed right for the book’s cover. It’s gritty, authentic and unexpected—basically, it’s a perfect representation of me. The glossier photo options just weren’t going to cut it.
Q: Sometimes what can seem like a failure or a setback can turn into something amazing. Look at your career. Talk about what happened to your dreams of playing professional baseball and how that morphed into something entirely different.
I poured my life into playing baseball, and when I got to college, all of those years of hitting and throwing and working on the fundamentals of the game paid off. I made the team at Baylor and figured that put me one step closer to my dream of playing in the big leagues. But I was cut from the team my sophomore year, and that hit me like a ton of bricks. For the first time in my life I actually had to think about what was next, because the answer was no longer baseball. I needed to find a new way to spend my time and apply all of that energy toward something else. It took a little time to get back on my feet, but when I did, I fell in love with the idea of dreaming up and starting businesses. Those early years of trial and error, combined with the discipline, work ethic and persistence I learned from my ball-playing days, ended up building the foundation for my career as an entrepreneur.
Q: I love what you say about going with your gut and learning to trust your intuition. How and when did you learn to tap into that and how can others do the same?
Around the same time I stopped playing baseball, I got a job with a landscaping company. It was labor-intensive work, but that’s what I loved about it. At the end of that summer, the owner of the company (who I deeply respect and look up to) suggested I open my own landscaping business—those few words of encouragement were the push I needed to get started. That was probably the first time I realized my passion for entrepreneurship. That small jolt triggered something in me I hadn’t felt since my playing days. At that point, I didn’t have all the answers, but I knew what it felt like to be passionate about something, so I went for it. The owner of that landscaping company thought he was just giving me a piece of advice, but he actually sparked something inside of me that would end up powering a lifelong love for small businesses. I think everyone is capable of trusting their gut and taking a calculated risk when it’s necessary. The first step—actually going for it—is the hardest, but it’s also the most important.
Q: We are living in a very divisive time in this country. You speak passionately about the importance of being around people with different beliefs and backgrounds and how we are all enriched by the experience. In fact, you and Joanna are taking it to another level with your Bridge Building Summit. Tell us more about the project.
Jo and I are dreamers, and that probably stems from the entrepreneur in both of us. This whole idea of being bridge builders is something that’s really stuck with us. We’ve dreamt up this bridge-building summit as a platform for people of all backgrounds and mindsets to come together in the same place to talk through their differences. We see this thing as forging a path toward restoration between people who think differently, quite literally bridging the gap between us all. It’s not about agreeing, it’s about being able to get down in the trenches with someone who thinks differently than you and walk away with a mutual respect and appreciation for the differences you share. Who knows what the future holds.
Q: Everyone is going to miss Fixer Upper! How do you feel about closing that chapter and how hard of a decision was it?
It’s definitely a bittersweet feeling. It was not an easy decision to make; there were a lot of tears involved. But we are looking forward to what’s next for us. This show was the opportunity of a lifetime for me and Jo, but this just felt like the right time for us to step back. We gave this thing everything we had, and I know we left it all out there with season five. I mean it when I say we really did save the best for last—this fifth and final season is our favorite yet. It’s going to be something special.
Q: You ask the question, “What makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning?” and you see the answer as being the guideline for a fulfilling life. What makes Chip Gaines want to jump out of bed in the morning?
Work is what gets me out of bed in the morning, and I’m talking about actual physical labor. Waking up at four in the morning to work on the farm is one of the high points of my day. It’s also some of the most physically demanding work I do all day, but there’s something about it that kind of feels like play to me. It’s the kind of work I love, and when you find something that gets you out of bed willingly at 4 a.m., you know it’s worth sticking with. And also Jo’s homemade biscuits. I’ll jump out of bed for a plate of those any day of the week.
He’s right. Her biscuits look delicious.