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Lessons from The Magnolia Story

I’m an unabashed fan of the HGTV show Fixer Upper and its hosts, Joanna and Chip Gaines. I’ve been know to watch marathon style more than once, and I’ve even got my husband to watch with me. What is it about Joanna and Chip? They are real, their values come through in all they do, they work well as a team, they have fun, and, oh, she does have a terrific sense of style. I asked my husband about the show. He likes it because Chip and Joanna are motivated by the end result, helping others achieve their vision, and that money is not their motivator.

In October their book, The Magnolia Story, was published, and I knew it would be fun to read. It also offers lots of business and life lessons. Here are some.

Be true to yourself.

This is what comes across strongly with both Joanna and Chip. You get a sense of what their values are and how they live them in their lives and business. Their family comes first. And what can you say about Chip? Joanna said he was her first fixer-upper, and while she might try to “fix” him, it doesn’t change what is true underneath. Kind of looking at a house and knowing it has “good bones.” I remember the show where he ate the cockroach — really! He is definitely a silly person at heart and doesn’t try to change that.

Learn on the fly.

You don’t have to know everything to get started. When Chip asked Joanna to help in his business fixing up small properties he purchased to rent to Baylor students, she was happy to pitch in. She knew nothing about interior design or construction. Even Chip admits that he didn’t know any more about interior design or construction that she did. He just jumped in and figured it out.

Don’t be afraid to get messy.

We all can sabotage our success. Joanna talks about working hard to make her house perfect. Once again after picking up after her kids and mopping the floors, she took a moment for herself and sat on the couch with the new slipcover. Her beautiful, new white slipcover was covered with black fingerprints. This led her to the realization that she had been focusing on the wrong things. She wrote, “I realized that my determination to make things perfect meant I was chasing an empty obsession all daylong. Nothing was ever going to be perfect the way I had envisioned it in the past. Did I want to keep spending my energy on that effort, or did I want to step out of that obsession and to enjoy my kids, maybe allowing myself to get messy right along with them in the process.”

Thrive, don’t survive.

This was a mind-set shift that Joanna went through. It came about after she realized the perfection problem was holding her hostage and keeping her from living her values. She shared a few other examples about how this was a choice to make every day with every decision. She started to ask herself the question of whether her response was a just surviving response or a thriving response. The more that she focused on thriving, the better the result.

Trust your intuition.

Joanna shared several stories where she stopped and listened to the voice within. It’s about trusting that voice, your gut, intuition, whatever term you choose. It’s about finding your passion and not giving up.

It takes a team.

Chip might rephrase this as it takes a village. None of us is in the alone, so look for help and help others. At one point when times were lean, some of their suppliers gave extra time to pay bills. Many of the people that you see on the work crew today were with Chip in the early days of the business he ran solo. And, look at the way they have supported other artisans, for example, furniture maker Clint Harp and metalworker Jimmy Don Holmes. They have a created a Magnolia family that supports them and they support.

Take risks.

Of the duo, Chip is definitely the risk taker and a natural entrepreneur. The book is filled with many examples of Chip starting new businesses and taking risks.

In the story about how Fixer Upper came about, the pair almost didn’t get the show picked up. The camera man told them it just wasn’t working. Then at the last minute, Chip being Chip arrived with a rundown houseboat that he had purchased as their next home.

Joanna did not start out as the risk taker that Chip is, but she shared that, “If I had planned my life, it never would have ended up like this. So maybe it’s kind of fun not to plan. Maybe it’s more fun just to see where life takes you. After all, we’re living proof that sometimes even the messiest stuff and the biggest mistakes can take you someplace wonderful.”

You can go back home.

The current Magnolia Market is the second reincarnation of the business. Joanna first started this business early in the marriage and made the hard decision to close it down. We all know that years later, she has reopened it and it is a successful business again. Your idea may be right; it may just not be the right time. Decisions are right at certain times. If your idea is meant to be, you can revisit it.

Set boundaries.

As their involvement in the Fixer Upper show their Magnolia empire grew, it was clear that Chip and Joanna needed to set boundaries. Joanna says they created ground rules early on. One of their boundaries was that they wouldn’t travel more than 30 minutes outside Waco. Another was that they carved out certain hours for family and for business. Another boundary was around television. The Gaines do not own a television. If they want to watch the show, they have to go to a neighbor’s home.

Have faith.

For Chip and Joanna, faith means faith in God. For you, it may mean faith in the Universe or something else. Regardless, having faith is important to getting ahead. But faith alone is not enough. An old African proverb says “When you pray, move your feet.” You could see this through the book, as the couple placed their faith first, yet continued to take steps to make their dreams a reality.

It’s your turn!

What were your takeaways from the book?


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2 Responses to “Lessons from The Magnolia Story”

  1. Sandi Colwell said:

    I couldn’t make the call yesterday but I enjoyed the book a lot. I watch their show off and on and I’ve always been impressed with their love for each other and passion for their work. The fact that they can work together so well is admirable. My husband works a full time job but he does the books for me and I always enjoy our time discussing ‘business’. While reading it, I couldn’t quite get that this was a business book but reading your take on it, Morna, makes me rethink how I experienced the book. I can see now it did have solid lessons. Perfection is my biggest hindrance in everything I do. I need to take a few cues from Joanna. To borrow from the previous book we read, The War of Art, I firmly believe perfection is my form of resistance. So many things to work on this month…thanks for suggesting a great read!

  2. Morna said:

    Sandi, thanks for adding to the discussion. I’ll admit that as I was reading, I was making notes and looking for the connections. They definitely make a great team.

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