10 years ago at the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. 

I’m proud of all of my kids for different reasons. They all have very different personalities.

I never thought that it would happen, but my son, Shawn and I work together now. He’s leading our booming real estate development business CRG. Five or six years ago, he told me he didn’t think I was doing a very good job at running it and I more or less turned it over to him to see how he would do. Previously, Shawn had been running his own home building business in Aspen, Colorado after graduating from Clemson. He was doing well despite the recession, but was ready for a bigger challenge. Once Shawn entered CRG, he proved that he was right.

Shawn has a different management style than I do, but we both have great intuition and common sense. He is particularly bright in finance and economics and has better pure training than me as he received his Master’s in Real Estate from DePaul. Where I am more of a bull in a glass shop, Shawn is smoother and more nuanced. I probably say things I should regret and Shawn is much more thoughtful in his direct people approach. Overall, we have more in common though than not.

I turned Clayco Realty Group over to him very willingly, because I have seen true grit in him from the time he was able to walk.  

Grit is perseverance driven by passion, as referenced in the book “Grit” by Angela Duckworth.

When we were growing up, no one in my generation knew what “attention-deficit disorder” was. We knew Shawn was smart, but he was falling behind a bit in school, so we took him to be evaluated by a psychologist we trusted. As the doctor was explaining this newly described condition, Ellen almost sprained her neck looking back-and-forth between Shawn and me. Apparently, the doctor had diagnosed both of us. 

I had long since learned to overcome the condition by using short periods of high concentration to focus and finish things. The biggest problem that people with attention-deficit disorder have is they don’t finish things that they start. I finish everything. So does Shawn.

No matter what Shawn did, whether it was gymnastics, his studies, his relationship building, or even dealing with trauma in our family with the loss of his mother, you could always see pure determination on his face. Quietly overcoming.

Now watching him as a new husband and young father, while growing and running one of the largest industrial real estate development companies in North America, makes me really proud of the way he has also adopted a work/life balance that I never had.

That takes grit also.

One of my favorite memories of sharing an adventure with Shawn was reaching the top of Kilimanjaro at 19,300 feet (10 years ago). Getting to the top is a full week of hiking over 54 miles up and back down. It also includes a final push that requires approx. 4000 feet of incline within a short distance in sub-freezing temperatures in the pitch dark. We have done a lot of hiking and climbing together, but that was really something special. Being at the top of Africa and taking it all in. True grit.