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Capital Gaines

September 4, 2018
Chip Gaines
A simple pop-self-improvement book with stories of Chip's life as he and Joanna built a happy family and successful company. Picture a bunch of motivational quotes organized into one book with stories in between. If you’re into the self-development space, it's nothing new, but it's still a relaxing read.
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The couple behind HGTV's Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna Gaines, are long-time real estate and home goods entrepreneurs. Chip had been remodeling homes for 13 years before the show aired, and Joanna had been selling home decor for a decade. Their company, Magnolia, is currently operating at about 500 employees, and they've grown a big and happy family.

This is more of a self-help-style book than one focused on business strategy. Chip talks a lot about hard work, self belief, and tips on having a good family life and marriage. It's an easy read with casual, funny writing:

I listened. I really did. And then—bam! I yanked the Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines™ rug right out from underneath their feet and chose the third option. They never saw it coming.

My notes


Walt Disney was told that he didn't have enough imagination and therefore was fired from his newspaper job at the Kansas City Star. Albert Einstein didn't speak until he was four years old and didn't read until he was seven. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a reporter because she couldn't separate her emotions from her work. (That same inability was one of the qualities that made us all fall in love with her.) Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

Self Belief

Like many other entrepreneurs, Chip has a high tendency to believe in himself. In his words: I tend to believe I truly can do or be anything. There are no limits on the things I believe I can accomplish.


The seemingly small, fortifying moments often end up being the most instrumental ones.

I might still fantasize about what that life could have been like, but ultimately I know that God's plan B has been infinitely greater than my plan A ever could have been.

If things stop selling, if the offers stop coming and our money dwindles away, I couldn’t care less. Seriously. If you don’t hear anything else, hear this—I don’t care enough about my finances to compromise my family or their well-being. We’ve had empty pockets before, and that’s nothing we can’t take on again.

Many blessings come with an expiration date. The fact that something is from God does not mean that it is forever.

Passion and Learning

What makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning? What puts a smile on your face, the kind you can’t wipe off if you tried? What fascinates you? Motivates you? Overwhelms you in the very best sense? If you don’t know, I suggest not wasting one more single day until you find out.

To learn something, be passionate about it. You'll soak it in.

You only retain 5 percent of the content you learn through a lecture – unless you quickly put that content to use or teach someone else what you’ve just learned. If you do that, you will likely remember around 90 percent. When we teach or implement new knowledge immediately after hearing it, we retain it far better. Our brains work harder this way, and we are forced to reason through the logic. It causes us to focus and concentrate in order to solve problems, and this process reinforces what we’ve learned.


When teaching your employees how to do something, help them figure it out themselves rather than give demands. If you tell someone how to do something, they'll remember for a day; if you let them actively discover the correct approach on their own, they'll remember for much longer. Chip calls this baptism by fire.

I always knew that if I ever got too important to pick up trash, my priorities had gotten out of whack.


Because we're not afraid to fail, fear has lost its power over us.

Fear will literally ruin every single facet of your life; it cripples everything.

The courage to take a chance is half the battle. The other half is viewing failure is a teacher and not an enemy.

Fear dressed as wisdom provides poor counsel. It lures you into thinking that if you just trust it, it will provide some level of control.

"Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage."


Having confidence in your intuition takes practice. You need to exercise it. Experiment with it. Visualize what you want to happen – if you can't imagine it, you can forget making it happen – and then start working towards it.

Chip talks a lot about your "inner voice" and the "voice from God" which I think is similar to intuition for a lot of people. He says you should actively cultivate the ability to listen to your intuition. Most people need practice. But the voice will lead you to the right places:

Joanna heard a voice from God that told her to close down their shop. It was over half of their income at the time, and it was her life for years. She told Chip at midnight in bed, and they moved the conversation into the kitchen until the early hours of the morning. According to Chip, "That momentous night with Jojo set off a chain reaction of events that quite literally led us to where we are today. And it all happened because Jo said yes to that feeling in her gut, that quiet voice telling her it was time for a new dream."

Tune into the voice you hear when you're thinking about going out on a limb. Trusting your gut is the first step, and the first step is the hardest. After a while, you'll build momentum and things will keep going.

The thing about walking closely with God is it has to be a minute-by-minute, day-by-day kind of relationship. No formula can suffice. You have to keep listening, keep following, keep being willing to act and to move on when it’s time.


A lot of people tend to take every win and every loss as a play-by-play, but there's a much bigger game going on, and if you look at the big picture, the ability to make decisions gets a whole lot less daunting. One match does not define a legacy.

Winning and losing isn't an event, it's a mindset:

  • Winner mentality: There's a positive waiting for you no matter the outcome.
  • Loser mentality: If there's a negative outcome anywhere along the way, you perceive that you've lost.

The world is full of people who choose the safe and predictable path. They save for their 401(k)s and work their fingers to the bone, focused on climbing the corporate ladder all the way to the tippy top. These people spend a considerable amount of time checking off all these invisible boxes. They live in fear that if they don’t do this, that, and the other to ensure their security, something bad will happen to them.

Unfortunately, I think most of us have become subconsciously obsessed with safety and comfort and make our choices accordingly. The problem with that is that nothing worthwhile comes easy. So behind almost every one of those decisions we make is an even bigger decision, the compass that determines the direction of our lives: do I want a safe, comfortable, and easy life? Or do I want my days to matter?

We might be living in a world with more armchair critics than torchbearers.

Inner fire is cleansing energy, a channel for a fresh start.


The key to a good marriage: giving each other enough slack to make mistakes. You can either pull and create this volatile environment, or you can push in the same direction. Life can be hard, so it's good to create a relationship where you're on each other's team 100% of the time.

[My number one priority is] our marriage and family. This is nonnegotiable. No one else in the world can raise our babies, and no one can better love and support my wife. No matter how successful I may have been at priorities two through a hundred in my life, if at the end of the day I didn’t get number one right, I’ve failed.


Don't get caught up in the job-title mentality. If you're the low man on the totem pole, then you may put yourself in that box rather than think of ways to go above and beyond. On the other hand, if you're a head honcho with a big title, you're more likely to settle in and get comfortable.

Never becoming complacent with your position is the best way to make yourself invaluble to whoever you work for.

If you are sticking out a job because of fear of passivity, there's nothing heroic about that. Do work that matters to you. Most people are somewhere in the middle. Chip doesn't enjoy every aspect of Magnolia or doing Fixer Upper. But he is passionate about some of the work.

While a job is a task that you do for an agreed-upon price, work is something you do for a bigger purpose to fulfill a calling or a dream. It feels like play.

Knowing Thyself

He gets up at 4 AM to feed the animals and tend to his farm. He says that it would be wiser, from a time management standpoint, to hire a farm crew so he could get more sleep, but he said when he starts his morning out there he's more productive for the rest of the day. "No texts or e-mails or phone calls or meetings. I have those two hours to myself."

Chip and Jo recognize that they have unnaturally high work capacities. They don't eat right, exercise, or get a good night's sleep. "Basically all we need to do is take up smoking to be the go-to guides for what not to do. Or the proof may be in the pudding, and our lifestyle is, in fact, the thing that’s responsible for our capacity." Also, "We will just go and go with no break unless something knocks us in another direction. In today's world, this tendency is sometimes viewed as a strength, but honestly, I'm not proud of it. I find it pretty unsettling."

However, they are aware of their own capacities and have concluded that they can do only two things really well at one time.


Some people show enormous resistance to modifying even a fraction of themselves. How ignorant for any one of us to assume we have a monopoly on right perspective and no one else holds even a piece of the puzzle.

A toxic lie has taken our beautiful planet and turned it into a battleground: if you don't think like me, not only are you wrong, but you are bad and possibly evil. Judging others' intentions is a nasty business. We would do best to steer clear of it entirely.

Don't cross the line between having opposing viewpoints and maligning the other person's character. Challenge opinions all day long, but at least save your assessment of who someone is until after you've gotten to know them.

Beware hate masquerading as righteousness.

President Abraham Lincoln famously built a “team of rivals” to advise him—a cabinet filled with people of opposing views and from different political factions. He even included three men in the group who had run directly against him in the election.

It should be the norm for Republicans to mostly just tune into CNN and NPR. And Democrats should be on a steady diet of Fox News. Mainly, we should all strive to put ourselves in a position of listening.

We stereotype and mock entire people groups merely because they think differently than we do. The oversimplified strokes with which we paint perfect strangers isn't just hateful; it's ignorant.