11 Years of Lessons from Sean’s Dad

“Children want to feel instinctively that their father is behind them as solid as a mountain, but, like a mountain, is something to look up to.”

~ Dorothy Thompson

Today’s Toolbox is not really about real estate…but it is. It’s kind of a second eulogy to my Dad but it’s also a lesson for all of us because, like the quote above, my father was a mountain of man. He died much too soon at the age of 61 eleven years ago today.

Many of you who are reading this have lost a parent. Perhaps some of you may have lost both parents. To those of you, I want you to know my thoughts and prayers are with you today and especially on the anniversary of their deaths.

To those of you who still have both parents alive and well, please take a moment today to reach out and tell them you love them. There should be no reason needed – just call them and say “I just wanted to tell you I love you.” If they are close by, drive over, give them a hug and say the same thing – “I love you.”

Trust me, you’ll miss that chance when they’re gone. Visiting them at the cemetery just isn’t the same.

So what does my Dad, a long-time professor of Landscape Architecture at The Ohio State University, have to do with real estate? Well, let’s look at the Eleven Lessons You Can Learn from Sean’s Dad…

1. Be Demanding…But Respectful – My Dad was a tough teacher. I heard that from many of his former students at his funeral eleven years ago. Yet every one of those students shared with me and my two brothers that they are better landscape architects, professionals, parents, husbands and people because of his demanding nature and the accountability he challenged all of his students (and sons) with.

Do you demand consistent efforts and communication from your staff, associates, teammates or consumers you are lucky enough to work with? Have you earned the right to demand results?

2. Listen To and Engage Your Peers – I remember many days hanging out at Brown Hall on campus and marveling at the number of faculty, staff and students who paraded in and out of Dad’s office to ask questions, share anecdotes or mastermind issues on the forefront of the profession of landscape architecture.

How open are you to listening to people you work with? Is it possible that “your way” might not be the “right way”? Can you stay open to new ideas, a challenge of your positions and an opportunity to just give people an audience?

3. Enjoy Seeing New Places and Learning New Things – My father was a master at this one. He had been to all fifty of the United States (many multiple times) and had travelled to numerous countries around the globe (many with his wife – my Mom) and usually brought home more than a few decks of slides for sharing later. He and Mom fell in love with the area of Montana around Glacier National Park (in nearby Kalispell, Montana) while he volunteered for the National Park Service during his summer breaks from OSU and they purchased a second home out there to enjoy during summers and Christmas breaks.

Mom still enjoys spending her summers in “God’s Country” and my brothers and I and our families have all had the opportunities to savor the relaxing and breathtaking views and lifestyles of Northwest Montana. (If you haven’t been to Montana, add it to your “bucket list”)

Are you taking advantage of the opportunities you have to venture to new places…with new people…to learn new things? You should. Don’t wait until you’ve got more time, or money, or desire. Do it now…and call a loved one to join you.

4. Learn What’s New Before it’s New – My Dad was one of the first to utilize a tool called Auto-CAD. It was a computer aided design tool for architecture and landscape architecture that is a common tool these days. He owned a Mac before people knew what a home computer was. If he was still alive, he would have been on Facebook and Twitter early – not to be “hip” or “cool” but he would have found some way to leverage the tool to add value to his industry and to share his learnings with other early adaptors.

How much time are you spending each day learning new things? Are you waiting for the needle to move before you get engaged? Are you pushing on the soft walls of your comfort zone each day? If you’re comfortable with the status quo, you’ll never be able to see what it’s like to sail uncharted waters. Start challenging yourself and others. That’s where the victories are earned.

5. Be Loyal – Dad served in the Ohio State University’s Department of Landscape Architecture for 29 years. For 90% of my life, I saw my Dad go to his job with a passion and enthusiasm. He always went in each day hoping he could positively affect someone’s life. If it was a student, great. If it was a fellow staff or faculty member, great. If it was a server at The Faculty Club on campus, great. If it was one of his sons, great. He just wanted everyone to become better.

Can your teammates count on you? Can your customers and clients depend on you to do what you said you would? Will you be willing to do what it takes to make your company or brokerage better? Are you willing to challenge the status quo and not be satisfied with “good enough”? Will you help to raise the bar in your industry?

6. Help Others Get What They Want – Most of you reading this blog post are in some sort of sales career. My Dad was never is sales but he sure was proud to be a teacher, which means he was in sales more than anyone can imagine. Everyday he was charged with selling his students on their beliefs, their ideas, their careers and their future. He would do whatever he could to help the people he touched succeed.

It seems cliche around the holidays to say “it’s not about what you get but what you give,” but do you really believe it? I’m pretty sure that you could show me a person who spent their life helping others and I am pretty sure I can show you a success.

Do you spend your time in real estate “building relationships, solving problems and having fun”? Then you’re doing a great job of this one. Keep it up.

7. Fair & Equal Aren’t the Same Thing – Treating students fairly was expected but some of his students got more care and attention because they earned it.

It’s expected (I could even say required) that you treat your customers and clients fairly when it comes to service, negotiations and respect; however, it is not expected that you would treat all of your clients equally. Why would you offer the same services and benefits to a client who has done just one deal with you in your career versus a client who has bought or sold four houses with you over the last decade and referred you three clients? You shouldn’t… and my guess is, you don’t. That’s okay?

People who support you deserve your support. Those who don’t support now but may in the future have a fair chance to earn your support. Don’t be in a hurry to treat everyone the same or else they will be.

8. Look for Opportunities to be a Leader – My Dad was very proud to be an active member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). He even was elected President of the organization, having the opportunity to lead his industry as they achieved amazing growth and success. He carried on the legacy of leaders before him and helped blaze a new trail for those who followed. He was also active at the local, state and international levels.

Are you dedicating time to your local office? Your company? Your industry at the local, state or national levels? Are you seeking roles in your local schools, your church or your community? Do you help coach your kids sports teams or volunteer at their youth events? Imagine the people you could positively impact by getting involved as a leader.

9. Be Willing to Share – I was always amazed at the number of industry people who would seek out Dad’s advice, support or guidance. I’d answer the phone and there would be landscape architects, community leaders or local politicians on the line asking ” is Jot Carpenter there?” He would speak to anyone and everyone if he felt like he had something to add to the conversation, concept or community.

Do you feel you’ll gain more by sharing or do you try to keep all the successes and secrets to yourself? Please realize that no one will do it the way you do so don’t be afraid to share. If you find something that works, share it with others. Help our industry “raise the bar” knowing that if everyone delivers “truly remarkable service”, the value we bring to our buyer and seller clients will grow.

10. Get in the Office Early and Be Willing to Stay Late – Dad would usually be out the door by 7:30am and home by 6pm. He was a member of the Baby Boomer generation so if you have a parent who was a Boomer, he or she probably worked the same schedule. That’s what they learned from their parents and they didn’t question it. As a professor, he wanted to make himself available to his students morning, noon and night.

There aren’t many top producers in the real estate industry that don’t practice this as well. If you want to be successful, get up early. Get in front of your clients early and often. Schedule your day, prioritizing your time so the most profitable activities get done first. Stay until the work gets done each day. make things happen.

Then, like my Dad, get home to your family, relax with a big jug of wine and enjoy your evening. Rest up and get ready to do it all over again the next day.

11. Love What You Do – If there is one thing that anyone who knew my Dad will tell you – he loved what he did. Teaching was a passion. Dad was proud to be a Landscape Architect. Dad loved spending time with his wife of 37 years (my Mom, Claire), watching movies, enjoying good food and wine, attending symphony concerts or operas (listening with his eyes shut like most good husbands are known to do) and cheering on his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes. He also enjoyed time with his sons and daughters-in-law and the short time he had meeting two of his eight grandchildren.

If you’ve read this far, my guess is that you love what you do too. There are over 1.2 million Realtors in the United States (licensed members of the National Association of Realtors) but we all know that not everyone of them is passionate about how they do their job and the way they treat their clients and represent our industry.

When you feel drained at the end of a long day because you gave it all you could, that is loving what you do.

When you can’t sleep at night because your brain is starting to think about what you have on your agenda the following day, that is loving what you do.

When you want to build relationships, solve problems and have fun, that is loving what you do.

I hope you can learn something from these 11 lessons from my Dad. I know he’d be proud to know that he is still teaching people after all these years.

Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher


Thanks for continuing to be a teacher, a mentor, a leader and a friend after all these years.

Thanks for being a great husband, father and grandfather.

I want to let you know I am very proud to be your son.

Thanks for being my Dad. I miss you.

17 Responses to 11 Years of Lessons from Sean’s Dad
  1. Haley Weaver
    February 17, 2011 | 10:04 am

    Luckily, I don't know what it's like to lose a parent but my boyfriend, Patrick lost his mom a year ago Monday. This week's been tough on him too.
    Your passion for writing really comes through in this post. So well articulated and I couldn't emphatically agree more with every single point here (especially #9…and 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, & 11). I'm working on the others but was raised with the same core values (picked up an entirely different way though). Anywhooo, without going into my own stuffs, I just want to say that Jet sounds like a remarkable man and he raised a remarkable son as well (I can't vouch for your brothers). I bet he drinks wine with his buddy's in heaven and brags about ya. Him and Woody are probably pretty tight too šŸ™‚

  2. Steve Harney
    February 17, 2011 | 2:15 pm

    This was inspiring. Your day would be proud of you for sharing.

  3. Tina Jagshi
    February 17, 2011 | 3:58 pm

    Beautiful! What your father taught you to do was to become a better human being. If we follow what you have shared with us today, it will not only help us be better people but also great at what we do. Thank you!

  4. Dori Gehling
    February 17, 2011 | 10:56 pm

    Very nice, Sean. Thanks so much for sharing your Dad with us. I may not have known him but I do know you and what you stand for so I feel safe in saying that he is very proud you are his son, of the Dad you have become and all you do for others.

  5. Sean M. Carpenter
    February 18, 2011 | 12:21 am

    Haley, Steve, Tina and Dori – Thanks so much for not only reading my blog today but for sharing your thoughts on my content.

    This post really has had an impact on many people and I think that because all of us had a Dad, it would be hard to read it and not think of your father as you're reading it.

    Some posts I write take some time but this one flowed from my heart to my hands. It's funny but that also happened 11 years ago four days from now when I stayed up until 1:30am writing my father's eulogy which I delivered at his funeral the next day.

    Thanks again for your kindness and support.

  6. Colleen Kelly
    February 18, 2011 | 5:47 am

    Mr. Carpenter, This was Amazing and so wonderful to read. Thank you for letting us be a part of your Respect, memories and love you have for your Dad. I lost my Mom in 2006' so your advice on telling them how we feel, I feel with complete understanding. I now HATE the cemetary. Hoe lucky you were to have such a father. as i was with my Mom and my Dad. I have him. Thank God. Thank you again for sharing.

  7. Debbie Judge
    February 21, 2011 | 4:14 pm

    This is good stuff Sean. I plan to share it with my team at tomorrow's business meeting. Your dad was a very smart man!

  8. Rosemary Buerger
    January 15, 2012 | 1:26 am

    How very fitting that I read this today, two days before I lost my Dad 11 years ago. Losing a parent is never easy and I only had 10 years with my Dad as we found each other when I was 25 and a new mother to my own daughter. Wise words and I'm going to share them. God Bless you and your family

  9. Cheri
    January 15, 2012 | 3:16 am

    I can fully appreciate why this is one of your fave posts ever. Very touching and inspiring. You hit a home run with this post, Sean!

  10. Sean M. Carpenter
    January 15, 2012 | 2:48 pm

    Rosemary & Cheri – Thanks for your comments. It means a lot to me that you took time to read this post. Hopefully as you were doing so you had some good thoughts about your Dad too.

  11. […] you never had a chance to read this post from last February 17th, 11 Years of Lessons from Sean’s Dad, you might want to start there. It’s one that I find myself going back to and reading often, […]

  12. […] to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!BufferI’ve written on this blog many times about the lessons I have learned from my father and a few of the other great instructors, teachers and coaches I have had the pleasure to associate […]

  13. Heather Ostrom
    November 28, 2012 | 7:18 pm

    Absolutely beautiful – thank you for sharing this with me today Sean. Your father was an amazing man, and continues to be in your heart + mind every day (I imagine). I consider it an honor to be related to my Father (who I also lost very young at 48) and to read your post, makes me love him more. Nothing is more recharging than to hear how much people love someone, that also means so much to you. You can’t say “I love you” enough to those that are still walking this earth and are important to you in your life … Your father sounds like an amazing man and thank you for sharing your memories with us.

    • Sean
      November 29, 2012 | 9:30 pm

      Thanks so much for the kind reply Heather. I’m sure your Dad is very proud of you

  14. C. Kaiser
    December 12, 2012 | 2:37 am

    I wish my father was someone I looked up to.

    • Sean
      December 12, 2012 | 3:24 am

      I’m guessing that at some time, maybe not now but in the future, you will find something to admire or learn from your father. Don’t wait for it happen. Seek an opportunity to make it happen.

  15. Jill
    December 12, 2012 | 1:22 pm

    Sean, thank you for sharing your Dad with all of us and your passion for writing, teaching and real estate. I lost my mother 8 years ago at age 56 and miss her every day. I am glad I share her passion for trying new things and having fun. Thinking of you and I know your Dad is very proud of you and that his passion for teaching lives on through you. Merry Christmas!