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Chip Gaines admits his wild school days helped him embrace his true identity: CP exclusive

Chip Gaines
Chip Gaines, No Pain No Gaines book cover, March 2021 |

Home renovation expert Chip Gaines opened up to The Christian Post about his struggles as a young man to find his identity until his wife, Joanna Gaines, encouraged him to embrace his originality.

The “Fixer Upper” star recently revamped the couple's hit TV series for the new Magnolia Network, and along with all the work he and his wife do in construction, TV and other business ventures, he penned his second book, No Pain, No Gaines: The Good Stuff Doesn’t Come Easy (W Publishing Group). He says the new book is about networks and networking, but not in the traditional sense. 

In the book, Gaines lists his “nonnegotiables” which includes his faith and family, along with other things.

“Once I could clearly see the difference between what was fake and what was real, these qualities became my non-negotiables: the strength of my faith, my dedication to my purpose, my love for my family, and my commitment to who I am. These were the watermarks that certified Chip Gaines, the Original. One of a kind, 100 percent unique,” he wrote in the book. “Every good thing in my life has come directly from my resolution to make these things non-negotiable.”

No Pain, No Gaines details his hard-won lessons and personal stories. The book is pegged as a “by-the-bootstraps manual” for building a network you can count on — “one that requires faith in people, hope, and a willingness to grow even when it hurts.”

The following is an exclusive excerpt Gaines shared with CP from No Pain, No Gaines:

Get Real Real

When I was in third grade, we moved from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to a little town called Colleyville near Dallas. Monday I was at school in Albuquerque and then Tuesday, I was in a different town, in a different school, with a bunch of kids going, “Who are you? Why is your name Chip? Why are you redheaded? Why do you have freckles?”

I realized pretty fast that I didn’t have a lot of time to figure out how to fit in. These kids had already been together since kindergarten.

I practiced shapeshifting all through high school. Obviously there was a pretty significant insecurity hiding beneath those polo shirts. I started to believe that people were far more interested in their own version of me than the real me. So that’s the one I tried to give them. All of them: the jocks, the band kids, the student council reps, the cowboys. One minute I was a cutup, if that’s who you were looking for. The next I was ultracompetitive, if that was your deal. It was like a party trick: now you see me, now you don’t.

As human beings we can get pretty creative about coming up with multiple personalities, taking cues from what other people seem to want. You look around to other people for evidence of who you should be. You laugh at something you don’t think is that funny because other people are laughing at it. You pretend to like a band you hate or hate a band you love. You wear the sunglasses everyone else is wearing. These are small things, but it’s death by a thousand papercuts to your sense of self. If you keep it up, it’s easy to forget who you really are.

In high school I never veered too far from the real me, that Chip Hilton-esque kid. I went to the kind of high school where everybody was in one of the good- kid clubs. I didn’t have a whole lot of friends who cut class, much less went out and got drunk and made fools of them-selves. So the first party I went to when I got to junior college was quite the shock to my system. I rolled in with a couple of buddies, and as soon as I got through the door, there were multiple scenes playing out that I’d never imagined witnessing with my own eyes. Not long after I got there, this guy came up, slapped me on the back, and said, “Gaines, good to see you. What’s up, you party animal? What are you drinking? Let me have a shot of that.”

This was before Nalgene bottles, so I was carrying this Mason jar–looking thing with a lid. I had filled it with crushed ice and—what else would a Chip Hilton–type character fill this thing with?— orange juice. Yep. Fresh- squeezed was my drink of choice.

This guy grabbed my OJ and chug- a- lugged it, making this big obnoxious deal, glug, glug, glug, glug, glug, with a little bit running down both sides of his face. Finally, he passed it back to me and said, “Oh man. What’s in that? Whew! Gaines is crazy, man!” And he just walked off.

For the first time since I was a kid back in Albuquerque, I was not at all tempted to shapeshift to fit into that scene. The girls pawing at me, some kid dragging himself across the floor because he’s blackout drunk? That just didn’t appeal to me.

I wrestled with my identity that whole year. I became a recluse. I journaled. I’d probably see it now and think, What a clown. But I took it really seriously.

When I transferred to Baylor the following year, I exhaled. These kids were more like the ones I’d known in high school, so it wasn’t a minute till I was back to my old ways, charming, adapting, fitting in.

Before long, I’d gotten myself into a fix. In my first couple of weeks, I met a kid I’ll call Peter. I can’t remember what his parents did for work, but whatever it was, it allowed him to have $5,000 a month to spend on whatever he wanted. Not the necessities like books or courses or even the meal plan. I’m talking five thousand extra dollars.

I didn’t want to run with Peter because of what he could do for me. I wanted to run with him so people would think that I was a high roller like he was. We went into this tit-for-tat thing, where I’d say, “Oh no, this round’s on me” or “Hey, I’ve got this one.” You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure out that a couple hundred dollars in savings doesn’t go far against $5,000 a month. One day I went to buy gas and my credit card was declined, and I realized I couldn’t fake it to keep up with this kid. At least not for long. When I ran out of cash, I’d hide out for a few weeks until I could afford to go about with Peter again. It was a real shameful cycle.

Fortunately, my imitation act took its final bow soon after I met Joanna Stevens. She didn’t seem to want a made- to- order version of me. She saw through all that nonsense. After we’d been dating a while, Jo sat me down and told me she needed to know who it was she’d be marrying. It became clear how easily this charade could destroy my chance of a life with this woman. You can’t sub in something artificial without compromising the integrity of the whole deal.

It was time to lock down a version of myself. It was not going to be Chip Gaines, High Roller, or Chip Gaines, Chameleon, or even Chip Gaines, All- American, but Chip Gaines, the Original. I might not have been buffed or polished, and I was really far from perfect, but I resolved to be perfectly real from then on.

Jo’s question forced me to drop the act and take up the task of dis-covering who I really was. Once I could clearly see the difference between what was fake and what was real, these qualities became my nonnegotiables: the strength of my faith, my dedication to my purpose, my love for my family, and my commitment to who I am. These were the watermarks that certified Chip Gaines, the Original. One of a kind, 100 percent unique. Every good thing in my life has come directly from my resolution to make these things nonnegotiable.

Identify your nonnegotiables, and all those made- up layers fall away. Then you start building from there. But peeling off layers you’ve worn for a long time is not easy. What you find underneath might be pretty unappealing at first— pale from the lack of exposure to sunlight, weak from lack of use. But ultimately you were given the stuff under there to hold you up and to help you move through the world. Once that outer protective layer is gone, and you get used to moving around without it, there’s no feeling as beautiful and free.

Taken from No Pain, No Gaines: The Good Stuff Doesn’t Come Easy by Chip Gaines. Copyright 2021 by Chip Gaines. Used with permission from Thomas Nelson.

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