When Emily Ackerman is having a tough day, her thoughts often shift to her grandfather. The 84-year-old veteran grew up in the Brooklyn, N.Y., projects. He’s beaten cancer twice and swims every day. While working long hours for a bottle company, her grandfather earned a master’s degree. “He’s the definition of the American dream,” says Ackerman, 28. “Thinking about his experience grounds me.” Like him, she aims to project positivity and calm. She sees her role with clients as a “protector.” Her caring nature has unexpectedly led to new business. One day after a showing, she paused to greet a couple’s dog as they approached the building. “I learned their names and decided to write them a thank-you card for letting me pet their dog.” Two years later, the couple called and asked her to sell their condo. The love she showed their dog had stuck with them.