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Reflections

R&V Reflections: No Pain, No Gaines by Chip Gaines

Chip Gaines excitedly opens a box of his new books at a warehouse. Image courtesy of Chip Gaines.

We are drawn to Fixer Upper’s Chip Gaines and people like him because they are awake, unafraid, and living on purpose. In his latest book, No Pain, No Gaines: The Good Stuff Doesn’t Come Easy, Gaines’s personality shines through just as authentically as it does on the screen as he shares what it takes to build your network.

Book Cover: “No Pain No Gaines:The Good Stuff Doesn’t Come Easy” by Chip Gaines. Harper Collins Publishing

However, this is not a book about networking, the verb, Gaines assures the reader, and the distinction is very important. 

Gaines isn’t interested in the transactional, you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours, definition of networking. He’s interested in building the kind of network that brings a “lifetime of dividends of joy, meaning, and connection.” These connections are rooted in one of the greatest commandments, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV). In fact, you could probably consider No Pain, No Gaines less of a business book and more of a guide to living out this commandment, to love one another. 

Hello, My Name Is Authenticity

There are two parts to the commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We are called to love our neighbor. And we are called to love ourselves. What does it mean to love yourself, really? An old song by The Teddy Bears says, “To know him is to love him, and I do…” Gaines is genuinely interested in and curious about people and their stories. If The Teddy Bears aren’t your forte for wisdom and knowledge, then perhaps we could try the great philosopher Socrates, who said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”

When we know who we are, we know exactly what we’re made of and where we stand. Can you say, “This is who I am, this is who God made me to be, and I love me”? That foundation, or as Gaines calls it, your “nonnegotiables,” is the rock upon which you build your network, the platform from which you fulfill the other half of the commandment and begin to love your neighbors.

Gaines shared how, as a kid, he practiced the art of reflection. “When I met a new potential friend, whatever that kid needed me to be, I pretended to be that. I put myself through a master class of human observation, studying the other kids, trying to determine what they liked, what they were about… I learned how to shapeshift with the best of ‘em, adopting the lingo, the laugh, the look of anyone I wanted to fit in with.”

But if you spend all of your time imitating others, you lose a sense of who you really are. “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,” Gaines writes. “These were the watermarks that certified Chip Gaines, the Original… Identify your nonnegotiables, and all those made-up layers fall away. Then you start building from there.”

As Christians, finding this nonnegotiable version of ourselves begins with surrendering to Jesus. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis put it this way: “Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has — by what I call ‘good infection.’ Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”

So it is as a little Christ that we pick up our nonnegotiables and begin to love one another.

That’s an extraordinary way to live. It’s frightening. It’s challenging. It’s inspiring. We are drawn to people who reflect Jesus because that light of fully living in freedom is so compelling. It’s also what makes No Pain, No Gaines such a compelling book. The toolkit for building your network that Gaines shares is really just a disguise for a different kind of toolkit—one for living your life with purpose.

This is what caught me by surprise, and what I hope will catch others off-guard as well. From the title, I expected just another pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, I did it and so can you, self-help narrative by a familiar face we all think we know already. But No Pain, No Gaines is far from it. Gaines is vulnerable with his own shortcomings and failures, pulls on the experiences that have shaped him as examples for what he’s learned, and demonstrates an unusual blend of humility and confidence that just shouts that Gaines knows himself, and loves others out of that knowledge.

Pleased to Meet You and Really See You

You know that story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well? She’s just going about her business, but he sees her. He wants to meet her. He wants to know who she is and what she’s made of. He wants to have more than a meeting: he wants to have a life-changing moment. 

That’s how I imagine Chip Gaines entering into every conversation with people. “It has been my experience that when you encounter someone in person, when you actually breathe the same air as them, see the wrinkles they’ve earned and scars they carry, you understand their story in a deep way… Someone you spend twenty minutes with might have more of an impact on you than a person you’ve known your whole life.”

When the Samaritan woman at the well left Jesus, she went back to her town. “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did’” (John 4:39 NIV).

If we’re to be little Christs, then just like this moment at the well, 20 minutes can have just as much of an impact on us, to each other, as it did for the Samaritan woman.

There’s so much more to love about Chip Gaines’ book. It can help you be successful, sure, but mostly it will encourage you to redefine what success looks like. It will drive you to learn who people are and build deeper relationships with them, thereby living out that second great commandment. So, go on. Start building your network.