In May 2012 best-selling author and entrepreneur Seth Godin posted a blog entitled ‘Dancing on the edge of finished’. In the complex world of digital connectedness, it urged us all to ‘be comfortable with the undone, with the cycle of never-ending’. Indeed, ‘it’s a dance, not an endless grind’.

I recite this occasionally to reassure delegates at the end of a training day which, if nothing else, has highlighted some sound commercial practices of which they are aware but which they have never progressed from knowledge to behaviour.

Seth’s piece appeared a year after The Guardian published my favourite photograph of David Abbott who sadly died last Saturday. The picture accompanied an article on ‘Twelve of the best new novelists’ and featured one of the world’s most gifted advertising copywriters squeezed, albeit elegantly, into a line-up of fresh writing talent. He was the only 70-something to make the cut.

I was fortunate to work at Abbott, Mead, Vickers (AMV) for nine and a half years. Precision is important here because when I left (although part of me never has) the founders, characteristically, still presented me with my 10 year clock. Not wishing to take anything for granted, I presented them with miniature clocks in return so that the six months would never come between us.

Tributes to David Abbott continue to rain in from all over the world. He was a great craftsman whose copy challenged the notion that advertising is disposable. Just read the Chivas Regal ‘Father’s Day’ ad (#2 on this list) and tell me that you don’t want to save it somewhere. He was also a great man who stood for the highest standards and who made you want to be a better person. Actually he really just wanted you to be you but at your best and happiest.

As he humbly suggested in his leaving speech from AMV in 1998, running an agency is about caring, for ‘quality – in everything you do’ and for ‘each other’. He was a steely simplifier and these priorities are hard to beat for ad agencies, for businesses generally, for relationships, for life. And, if all this sounds a bit worthy, he could also be as funny as anyone on the planet.

But what truly inspired and inspires me about David, and what I wish I had said to him, is how graciously he parked his reputation in a world which he bestrode to become, at the time, a relatively unknown, aspiring novelist. He could easily have built an ‘Abbott on advertising’ bandwagon and driven it headlong towards guru status.

Instead, he wore his sense of legacy lightly, focusing upon the future and new challenges, and, quoting theatre director Peter Brook, again from his AMV leaving address, clearly endorsing the view that ‘At any moment we can find a new beginning. A beginning has the purity of innocence and the unqualified freedom of a beginner’s mind’.

David was not exactly digitally enabled. When I worked for him, he seemed to regard switching on his PC as an act of betrayal, to Pentel and to the manufacturers of A3 layout pads.

He would, however, have understood Seth Godin’s anthem for the digital age. We must all embrace the possibility for and potential of new beginnings because, back to his blog, ‘Today we’re never finished, and that’s ok’.