We talked with our head mentor at The Jonas Project, Elaine Mathews (also known as the Wrangler), about her experience as a mentor and what she’s learned. Here’s what she had to say…
What I did not learn is that giving is a gift to the giver. I always knew this. However, working closely with TJP has reminded me that the size of this gift is immeasurable. Volunteers don’t “give to get”. We give to “give back”. Unfortunately, just as nothing can equal the sacrifice many of our military men and women have made for us, nothing can equate to the satisfaction of having helped another person. We mentors, we gain more than our vets. Often, I hear from other mentors, “I didn’t do anything, they did all the work.” And this is said with pride in the outcome of their experience.
What I did not learn is that help is given on an individual level. I always knew this. However, I have been SIGNIFICANTLY reminded that it’s not about how big the charity is, how much money they receive, or how many people they help. It is a series of extraordinary successes, each one based upon the work of an individual. Each vet that launches a business, each vet that understands that their idea isn’t viable, each vet that is determined to be an entrepreneur, is a success.
What I did not learn is that it is an extraordinary amount of work to launch a business. I always knew this. I am approaching 50 business launches. However, I was surprised at how difficult it is to obtain that understanding from others. That’s good, because HOPE keeps us moving forward. But, probably my biggest challenge as a mentor is convincing our entrepreneurs HOW HARD this road is going to be, without demoralizing them from the joys of the travel.
And finally, I did not learn how ill-prepared people are to be entrepreneurs. In every business I start, I am ill prepared for SOMETHING about it. Because I always start something new that I haven’t done before. However, I had assumed that the discipline achieved by military service would put vets a step ahead in this area. I have discovered that they are just as typical as everyone else is. Starting a new business is just plain hard, and you’re never fully prepared.