‘A real friend and mentor is not on your payroll’.

That quote is from the late Prince’s acceptance speech into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The link actually talks about some of the background to his masterful guitar performance at George Harrison’s induction but the video at the end provides the quote that I have mentioned.

While most of us do not have people on a payroll it is still a deeply meaningful quote that we would do well to entertain. For a young man on a journey through life a personal mentor is a most valuable gift to have. You can have impersonal mentors, and I’m sure that many writers and bloggers are inspirational in this sense. But a personal mentor is someone that you know who holds your personal interests as importantly as their own. Or as Prince says, they value your soul as much as their own.

It is easy to see why someone who is rich and famous would struggle to find such a person to trust and value. But it is also difficult for the average young man to find a mentor. I found my mentor when I was seventeen years’ old. He was thirty years older than me. He had been one of the relationship counselors in my parent’s divorce.

I knew him in a vague social way but one day when I was seventeen and having great personal difficulties, I rode my bicycle around to his home on an impulse. When I arrived he welcomed me inside and while his wife made us some tea he listened to me. He did not offer advice. He was much too careful for that. But he listened, and he gave my concerns the importance that they needed, and I left feeling somewhat better than when I had arrived.

I visited him many times over the years. When I left my home town and traveled around the world I always kept his phone number. When email became a thing his was one of the first that I used. Eventually, many years later, I married my wife in the city of Edinburgh. My mentor was one of my two witnesses to fly from Australia to be there on the day at my request.

Throughout our almost thirty year relationship he has always had my best interests at heart. At various times we have reversed the mentor relationship and I have listened to his personal concerns. For me this was the ultimate compliment. Of course now I have a deep personal strength to draw upon so when we talk it is more to catch up and see how we are both progressing. But on occasion I give him a call or drop him an email when I am particularly stuck on some matter.

The most important moment in our friendship was that very first time when I arrived at his home and he opened his door to me. When you have need they are there. They do not seek anything in return. They are not on your payroll.