I have written before about David Ambler’s Guidelines for Working with Students (dot #1362) and frequently reference his ten points as ideals that apply to everyone. One of my colleagues agrees, and in preparation for him to share the Guidelines with his staff, I dug out the letter that David Ambler sent me almost 25 years ago.
I had been using the Guidelines for many years — with attribution, but without a backstory. Then, a former staff member took a new job that happened to be in Ambler’s division. When the dots connected, I wrote Mr. Ambler a note thanking him for his work and sent a copy of The Alchemist book as de facto royalties for my usage. I received a thoughtful letter in reply that shared the context for his writing and his original version of the guidelines that had been modified through the years. He also praised my mentoring of his new team member and was sure to copy her in the correspondence.
Re-reading this letter — on real letterhead via US mail — I think of how much more meaningful it is than a quick email zipped off to someone. This letter took thought to craft for a total stranger who required no reply, and yet he took the time to respond to me, praise his staff member, and provide context that made the Guidelines even more impactful for the hundreds of people I have shared them with.
Now there are eleven guidelines to learn from David Ambler — his initial ten, plus the value of intentional, thoughtful correspondence. Decades later, his lessons remain powerful.