A year after launching The Magnolia Story with his wife, Joanna, Fixer Upper star Chip Gaines has debuted a memoir that delves more deeply into his own tale. The new release—titled Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff—recounts the HGTV personality’s countless triumphs and failures, touching on everything from his experience growing up with a learning disability to his battle with depression. Unsurprisingly, the book is dedicated to Jo and their four kids—Drake, Ella, Duke, and Emmie. “They are my greatest achievement and my primary motivation for everything I do,” Gaines asserts.
Published by HarperCollins, the heartfelt tome is designed to coach readers on how to achieve their own dreams, no matter how many bumps they encounter along the way. “We’ve got a little bit of everything in there,” he says. “Some parts are more fun and lighthearted than others—some parts get a little gritty. It’s pretty multifaceted, just as we all are as human beings.”
Here, the fun-loving family man—Who recently camped outside a Target so that he could be first in line for the launch of the couple’s new home decor line, Hearth and Hand—reveals the story behind his new book, the strangest thing he’s ever eaten, and his greatest strength (and weakness).
Talk about your book-writing process—how the idea for the book came about, how long it took you to produce the first and final drafts, any speed bumps you encountered along the way?
This is something I have wanted to do for a long time, so a lot of what ended up in the book are thoughts I’ve had for a while now. To be honest, it didn’t take as much time as I thought it would. I think it’s easier when you’re writing about your own experiences, but it still took some time to remember all those stories. Most mornings I got up at 5 a.m. to write out on our porch before the kids woke up, and then I’d be back on the porch after sundown when they were in bed for the night. It was grueling at times, but I loved every second of it.
Was the process similar to what you experienced putting together ‘The Magnolia Story?’ Did Joanna help write or edit ‘Capital Gaines?’
It felt like a similar process writing both books. Honestly, it was like having open-heart surgery—twice. Jo wasn’t technically a “co-author” on this one, but she was still by my side from start to finish. I’d write and she’d edit. I honestly couldn’t have done it without her—she is great about remembering details and reminding me of things that I’ve forgotten from ten or fifteen years ago.
I wrote most of it at home in Waco, but this past summer, we went on a “book retreat” to Napa and that was just what I needed to get this thing across the finish line. It’s pretty inspiring to surround yourself with people you love in a beautiful place that allows you to really clear your mind, reflect and focus.
Why did you choose a photo of you with a solemn look for the book’s cover (as opposed to one depicting the funny, lighthearted Chip fans know from the show)?
Jo actually writes about this in the book’s foreword. At first, everyone wanted me to go with a “safer” option, something less serious. But to tell you the truth, that photo was shot as I was driving a side by side to the actual photoshoot—no formal setup, no fancy lights, none of that. After the shoot was over I had people vote on the cover photo so I could hear other perspectives, but at the end of the day I knew in my gut which one was right for me. This photo was just such a raw moment in time, it felt perfect for this book, and it reminded me of something I say often: “Life isn’t about arriving at the farm, it’s about what happens on the way to the farm.”
Do you enjoy reading leisurely? If so, which genres or authors do you gravitate toward?
I’ve never been an avid reader, but I always try to tackle a few impactful books each year. My recent favorite is Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. So many things in that book resonated with me on a personal and professional level. It was a good reminder that great things often grow from humble beginnings. I’m also a Max Lucado fan, so I’m looking forward to reading his new book, Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World. I also love the Harvard Business Review classics. They are small, so they don’t require a ton of time commitment, but they are all filled with simple grains of truth that always inspire me.
What are your favorite words to live by?
My motto is, “Live each day as if it were Saturday.” It has a much different meaning than you might expect. Growing up, the weekdays were all part of the same routine. I’d wake up at the same time, go to school at the same time, come home at the same time, go to bed at the same time and then do it all over again through Friday. But Saturdays were for chores, working outside, baseball—things like that. Everything was a lot less regimented on Saturdays. I always knew what I had to do, but not always when I had to. I had to manage my time efficiently and yet still be nimble enough to change direction on a dime. A lot of times, Saturday was the hardest day of the week, but Saturday is also the reason why I am the way I am and I knew that was how I wanted to go about all of my days.
What’s your formula for success?
I don’t think there is a formula for success. A formula is like a roadmap—it can be used over and over and you’ll get the same result every time. But I do think there is always a level of consistency. Things like hard work, core values, persistence—the foundational stuff—you’ll find all of that in everything I do, but there is no formula. There is no rulebook.
Pinpoint your greatest strength and biggest weakness. How has each played a part in getting you where you are today?
I think the two are one in the same. I’m always coming up with new ideas and exploring potential business ventures. That’s the entrepreneur in me. Sometimes things work out great, but other times I fall flat on my face. Either way, I figure it out and I think that is what’s most important. I love the experience, I love the ride, I love the thrill. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I’ve never given up or let any kind of failure keep me down.
Who do you look up to?
I had two personal mentors: Uncle David and Uncle Ricky. To tell you the truth, neither one of them is actually my uncle, but that should give you an idea of how much they mean to me. Uncle David was the king of common sense. He was instrumental in teaching me about the intangibles, the things nobody teaches you about success in business. Uncle Ricky, on the other hand, really helped me understand the finer details of business like taxes, hiring, business structure and all of those things. He was brilliant, extremely driven, the kind of guy who graduated from law school younger than anyone else. Those two were instrumental in helping me grow. Learning from them was an education on its own.
If you could turn back time and offer your younger self a few pieces of advice, what would you tell him?
I think from the very beginning, I’d want to assure myself that the only way to truly succeed in pursuing your dreams is to just go for it. If you’ve got a desire to separate from the pack and find your own lane, then what are you waiting for? The earlier the better! The downside and the liability is that obviously not everybody is made for the entrepreneurial life, and we all have to figure out what works best for us. For me, I love it. I love the experience, I love the ride, I love the thrill. I always have.
If you could build a house for any client, dead or alive, real or fiction, who would it be (and what would it look like)?
I’m fascinated by Henry Ford. Talk about business acumen. The moving assembly line reduced the amount of time it took to build a car from more than 12 hours to just under three. His knack for efficiency revolutionized an entire industry. I’d want to build him something fully functional. Every inch of that place would be designed with efficiency in mind.
Name the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten.
I ate a cockroach once as part of a bet. It was pretty nasty—I’m not gonna lie.
Aside from the book launch, what else is currently on your plate?
Right now we are renovating a restaurant, Magnolia Table, which is kind of an iconic building here in Waco. Other than that, we’re just focused on doing the work we love and spending time with our beautiful family. But who knows what the future holds?
At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is...
My family. Make no mistake about it.
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