About the Episode

In this episode of Balance Not Burnout, host Mark Williams talks with his former high school English teacher James Thompson. Over the course of their 40-year friendship, Thompson has reinvented his career multiple times, going from teacher to FBI agent to EPA investigator and eventually actor.

He discusses his varied career path and experiences in law enforcement, as well as how he has navigated burnout through meditation, exercise, and pursuing new hobbies. Thompson also offers advice to his younger self about exploring multiple interests and talents rather than limiting oneself to one career. The episode provides insight into Thompson’s unconventional journey across different fields and his approach to continually finding new passions and challenges.

James L. Thompson, Jr. was born in Southeast Alabama.  He graduated from Troy State University with a B.S. and a Master’s in English Education. James is a charter member of the first Black Greek organization on the campus of Troy State in 1976: The Theta Phi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi University. 

 After college, James taught high school English at Henderson High School in DeKalb County Georgia. After four years of teaching, he resigned and joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a Special Agent. James served five years with the FBI and was stationed in Houston and New York. He later resigned from the FBI and joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a Senior Special Agent in Dallas, Texas with EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division. In 2001, James was promoted to the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Philadelphia CID Regional Office. James retired from EPA in 2007 and became a licensed Private Investigator in Montgomery County.  

Additionally, from 2003 to 2010 James served as an Adjunct Faculty Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania where he created and presented a graduate level course on Environmental Justice, presenting case studies on criminal investigations and regulatory enforcement.   

James has pursued several interests with much success.  In 2010, he  

formed Abuzz Filmworks, an independent film production company.  That same year James wrote, directed and produced his first short film entitled, “The Coloring.” He has written four books with his latest being Just My Imagination Running Away with Me. 

In 2020, James worked as a Census Field Supervisor for the 2020 Census. Later that same year he worked with Montgomery County Voter Services to help process ballots for the 2020 Presidential Election. In March 2021, James began working with Montgomery County Pennsylvania COVID-19 Vaccination Centers where he registered clients to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.  

In 2020, James became a board member with the Philadelphia Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. where he currently serves as the Director of Communications. In 2022, James also became a board member for the American Heritage Federal Credit Union.  

Episode Transcript

Mark Williams and James Thompson:

Mark Williams 0:07
You’re listening to balance, not burnout, a podcast helping leaders rethink the speed of their business. And I’m your host Mark Williams. Join me as I explore the power of a more intentional, balanced approach to leadership. Thanks for listening.

Mark Williams 0:26
Hey, everybody, welcome to balance not burnout episode nine. And today, this is a really special guest for me. In fact, someone I have known for over 40 years, my sophomore year in high school, one of my favorite people in the world. My English teacher, my sophomore high school English teacher, Mr. James Thompson. And before I tell you, and before we get James on, let me share a little bit about his background. So yes, I have known him for 40 years as my English teacher taught me the love of writing got me writing poetry and all kinds of stuff, not only teaching, James left the teaching world to become an FBI agent. And then he left the FBI to work for the EPA. And he also writes greeting cards, does a lot of writing has a few books, and it does TV commercials, and I believe has done a commercial for an insurance company sort of around that circle all out. So please help me in welcoming Mr. James Thompson.

Speaker 1 1:29
Thank you, Mark. It’s really good to see you again. I can’t believe it’s been 40 years. Wow, that we’ve known each other.

Mark Williams 1:34
It is hard to believe that the 80s was 40 years ago. Correct?

Speaker 1 1:40
You look good. You look great. Yes, do you?

Mark Williams 1:43
But we always kick off the episode with our first question. Sure. It’s a Saturday or Sunday morning, you have no responsibilities, you can do what you’d like, be with whomever you’d like, describe for us the perfect Saturday morning.

Speaker 1 2:01
To be honest, were you the perfect Saturday morning for me, my wife and I, we are empty nesters now, so my son gonna have one child, he’s gonna be 30. In July. He’s out the house. He’s in Brooklyn. So it’s just the two of us. My wife is semi retired. But she works two days a week. But I’m retired. So for us, it stayed at home, talking, having conversations, you know, I do all the cooking in the house now because she didn’t want to cook. And so I took that about 15 years ago. That’s another story. Basically, we’re at the point now, where we realize it and I at this point, everything I like should be simple. No stress. We’ve been married 34 years, congratulations. No arguments, no fights, we’re not going anywhere, no divorces, we appreciate each other. We respect each other. But mainly we respect each other’s place. I mean, I’m the man. She’s a woman. I don’t try to take her place. She doesn’t take my place. We split everything 5050 down the middle. It’s worth parenting. Taking care of the household. I think that balance is very effective for both of us. It gives her something to feel good about. And it gives me something to feel good about. So it’s not a 6040 relationship on that set. I’m not saying it’s a man’s world do what I say. I bounce everything off and I bounce things back. And because we started out as we fell in love, we also became friends. I think that’s important. She also is my friend. And I trust her with my life because she is my wife. She’s been my wife. And as you know, this is my second marriage. I was married before when you and I met. And that’s a whole different story. But

Mark Williams 3:32
yeah, I get that. So Saturday morning, what would the two of you do?

Speaker 1 3:37
We have different tastes in movies. That’s to tell you that we have different tastes and films and movies. So I’m a Western. I watched Western all day long. She does not like restaurant, she likes to watch tennis. So she has to have the Tennis Channel. And I have to have the Western channel. So I’m watching Gunsmoke and rawhide and she’s watching Venus and Serena play tennis. Fantastic.

Mark Williams 3:56
Love it. Well, let’s talk a little bit about about your background. I know you’ve written a book about your hometown, in Alabama, what brought you to Georgia? What got you into teaching? And then probably next question would be What got you out of teaching?

Speaker 1 4:12
Okay, easy question. So I went to Troy. At that time, it was Troy State University. It’s now called Troy University from 1972 to 1976. I went to school there and I majored in English. First, I got a BS in English and maths teachers tried to keep me interested in so why don’t you stay in and get a masters? I really was kind of brought up but I stayed and got a master’s and of course in they said, Why don’t you stay to get a PhD? And I’m like, No, I’m done. I graduated in 1976, with a BS in English and then 79 with a master’s in English. So in 1980, my wife and I got married, and she was living in Atlanta, and I was living in Dothan at the time. So I moved to Atlanta to be with her. And I did not have a job when I got to Atlanta. I have a master’s in English but I didn’t have a job. So the funny thing is, I heard that substitute teachers were making $85 a day. So I went down to the spot men of Georgia excitation department to get a substitute teacher job. And I fill out the application, I gave it to the lady. And she said, let me look at your application before I give it to the superintendent. She said, You have a master’s in English. I go, yeah, she’s a you a black man with a master’s in English. Yeah. She’s I think the superintendent would want to talk to you. I’m like, What’s the big deal? I didn’t really understand what the big deal was. Sure. Lieutenant came out, looked at my application. He said, You’re a black man with a master’s degree in English. So I’m like, yeah. can pick any school that you want? But what do you mean? He says, we don’t we have a shortage of men, teaching English, especially black men. So he gave me four schools to look at, I looked at four schools, and we settled on Henderson High School. And as you know, the whole four years I was there. I was the only black male teacher.

Mark Williams 5:56
Yeah, and I’ll even add to that, when I first started high school in 1983 or four, there were maybe 10 or 15 Black students in total at Henderson high school, out of 1400 kids. That changed. It did change rapidly throughout my high school education. But yeah, when I first started, there was not a very large black community. Were surrounding Henderson High School, for sure.

Speaker 1 6:23
That is correct. Yeah. But I have to tell you, and listen was a dream job. For me. I was a rookie, I did not know what I was gonna get into. But for the four years I was there. I had a ball as some of the best students, we didn’t have discipline problems. And there was no drugs. There were no girls. Oh, no. Nice. I had good students. I had good kids. And I could

Mark Williams 6:42
tell you, like, I can tell you a few stories offline. But there was a little bit of that, but not a lot for sure.

Speaker 1 6:49
I as a teacher, I never saw I didn’t see that me. And I as you know, I had a policy in my classroom. I would not feel any student who came to class and try it, if you try, would not feel any student out there. There one student in four years, because this guy came to class and put his head on the desk and went to sleep. Of course, he fought. And he blamed me. And I’m saying, Well, you want to sleep for the whole year. But no, I really love teaching. It was a lot of fun. I hated to leave when I left. But we’ll get into why I left a bit later.

Mark Williams 7:23
But I was gonna ask you Do you mind me asking? So you made a very big leap from teaching to the FBI, and I can’t think of something that would be totally opposite. Like who woulda guessed that you go from teaching high school English to becoming an FBI agent carrying a gun? Well,

Speaker 1 7:38
let me tell you how that happened. Exactly. So you’re number four teaching English. I was beginning to experience burnout. I love the kids. I love the job. The pay was very low. And I felt like they were paying a lot of things. I mean, they had me coaching on eighth grade track. They had me doing bus duty to have you doing lunchroom duty extra duties that had nothing to do with teaching just about experiencing burnout. Plus at night as an English teacher, you work eight hours a day you grade papers for eight hours at night. So I was working 16 hours a day. Really? Yeah. So a close friend of mine. He said, Why don’t you go and apply for the FBI. I just thought the FBI is looking for new people. He was being sarcastic. Because I’m 29 years old at the time, and I said, I won’t work for the FBI. Are you kidding me? I used to go down, interview the FBI take all the test. If you don’t like it, you can turn the job down. I’m like, Oh, that makes sense. So I went down. I took all the tests with FES like logical test, written test, really didn’t think about it. So eight months went by, and I really forgot all about it. So I’m teaching one day in class and a guy knocked to my window said, Hey, there’s a telephone for you. Why don’t you get the telephone and I keep the class where you get the telephone. I think it was an emergency. Somebody had died in my family. So I go to the phone. The guy says this is so and so with the FBI. You pass all of the tests. We want you to come to work for us. And I said, yeah, very funny. April Fool’s. This is not an April Fool’s joke. This is FBI. You did pass the test. And we offer you a two week window to show up. But you we want you to come work for something like well, I’m an English teacher. I have a contract. I can’t just walk out and leave. He said, Well, you got two weeks. So I went in to talk to my principal, Mr. Frank Campbell and said, Hey, this is a dilemma and I just got a call from the FBI. They offered me a job. I have a contract. What do you think I should do? I never thought that the camera liked me. He said, Mr. Thompson. This is an opportunity of a lifetime. He said, I will use your age young man, I would take this job. What I’m going to do for you is I’m going to hold your job for you. If you get that you don’t like it. You come back I keep your job. Wow. Fantastic, great teacher. We hate to lose you. And I hate to say it but I started choir by him because then I realized he did like

Mark Williams 9:53
Yeah, and I will emphasize a gentle giant. You have always been an fantastic In the classroom, which is one of the reasons why we stayed in touch, always just a wonderful, wonderful temperament in the classroom, and really encouraged people to find, to find something inside of them to write about, which was just wonderful. And that started my love of writing. I also know that you wrote greeting cards, or maybe still do. So you decided to go to the FBI. And what did you do there?

Speaker 1 10:23
I tell you what, that was the scariest decision of my life. Because when I left teaching, I had a secure job. It was a low paying job, but a secure job. I knew I was gonna be teaching for a long time, get to the FBI and the FBI, I found out that they had a policy. First of all, there were 40 people in my initial class, three black men, I was one of three black men, there was no black female, there were women with no black females. So they had a policy. If you failed any two tests with 85 or below, you automatically kicked out. And that’s a written test. Wow, that’s a physical fitness test as a firearms test, whatever testing was, you feel any to test with 8080 below 85, you automatically kicked out. So that was built in stress. Now I’m sweating. I use Oh, I’ve never shot a gun in my life never had anything to do with law enforcement running five miles a day. So the stress for me was enormous. And I needed a lot of help. So I partnered with people in the class, you know, people who knew better more than I did. People knew how to shoot a gun and things like this. And we did mutual mentoring. They taught me what they knew. And I told them what I do about writing. And that’s basically how I got through a lot of prayer.

Mark Williams 11:37
And how long were you an FBI agent for

Speaker 1 11:41
the training course to be an FBI? As you know, it’s four months longer. 16 weeks straight? It’s four months. It’s in Quantico, Virginia. I got into the FBI marks at the 1984. And I stayed until June 1989. So I spent five years with the first office was Houston, then it was New York City, which I did not like.

Mark Williams 12:01
Let’s talk about that a little bit. So balance, right. So first of all, interesting career choice, FBI. How did your wife feel about it? And how did you balance what you were doing during the day, and then come home and spend time with your family at night? That’s an interesting, you know, I just have a I have a desk job. So for me, not quite as stressful I’m sure as being in the FBI. So I’m curious as to how that was at home.

Speaker 1 12:26
Well, this is a very complicated acid position. Yes to Question. I told you, I was gonna be completely honest, I have to be honest. You remember, I was told I was married before. I got married in 1981 1984. I’ve been married for years to my then wife. Then I went into the FBI. Well, unfortunately, while I was gone, my wife got involved in somebody else with somebody else. So that time I finished my FBI training on marriage to pretty much all Yeah, and she didn’t want to resume that with me. So the whole time I was in Houston, she never came to Houston, I wanted us to by myself. We were going through a divorce at that time. So once the divorce became final, and October of 85. We never really saw each other again. So from then on, I was single. So I had nobody wanted to come home to other than my empty apartment. And it was very difficult, you know, because it took me two years to get over the rejection of a divorce. Sure.

Mark Williams 13:21
But even then, I’m curious how, how even a single individual in a town yet you didn’t grow up in obviously you don’t know a lot of people. You come home, you’re in a what I would submit probably as a pretty high stress job. How do you just how do you balance that world? How did you relax? Well,

Speaker 1 13:38
again, honestly, I said, when I got to Houston, Texas in 1984, gentlemen, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Let me explain. I didn’t like Houston when I first got there, because I thought it was a country town. And I realized it was the fourth largest city in America. The women to men ratio was 12 to one. This goes, I answer. Just goes we’re everywhere. So after work, we go to the discos, nightclubs and whatever, meet people and it became a lot of fun. So when I got transferred from Houston to New York, two years later, I cried like a baby. So I don’t want to go to a brand friendly town. And not only the FBI was my family, I had a lot of FBI agents that worked on my squad. We were family, we spend time together at work, and afterwards, we had house parties cookouts barbecues, they were my adoptive family. Yeah.

Mark Williams 14:33
And then you made a decision to go to the EPA. What was behind that decision?

Speaker 1 14:39
Well, first of all, I get transferred to New York City to December of 86. Chicken like a baby, I get to New York City and I’m like, I’m from Alabama. What am I doing in New York City? I get to New York. It is just like I thought it was it was a crazy place. Drugs. AIDS was coming out now. announcement came on the radio to save New York City has 500,000 unreported cases of 876. So then I just wrestle as if they have 500,000 reported cases of AIDS. I mean reported cases of AIDS, I mean, so rather than dating, I went out and got cable TV, and I pretty much stayed home and watched cable TV I was afraid to date, because you can’t look at a person till they have AIDS. Luckily, I met a young man whose fraternity brother worked for IBM. I mean, he worked for Xerox at the time, and he told me I work with this young lady. I think you guys will like us. And I want to introduce you to her. And I said, I don’t ever want to meet him because I just went through a divorce. I’m really not interested. Yeah. And this one over like man was he kept telling me about this young lady. So finally, we met. And that’s the later marriage now.

Mark Williams 15:47
Fantastic. And Was she a reason why you went to the EPA? Like, like, what’s that decision?

Speaker 1 15:53
A reason I went to the EPA was very honest with I did not like New York City. I didn’t like the crime. I didn’t like the traffic. I didn’t like the cold weather. I am not a native New Yorker and the bright lights did nothing for me. I did not like living and working in New York City. So as soon as I got an opportunity to get out, I did. And luckily, I had a friend who was recruited for the FBI. He went to recruitment fair. And right next to his recruitment desk, was recruited from the EPA. It just had a conversation. And he said, Hey, I got a friend who really wants to leave the FBI. Would you mind talking to him? And they said, Sure. So I interview over the phone, EPA, and Dallas. They hired me over the telephone. Wow, for a job over the phone without ever seeing anybody. So I gave my notice to the FBI and I went to Dallas to work for the EPA, but not as a criminal investigator. I went as a civil investigator, they, they people push it, sitting at the desk doing paper violations. I didn’t even know EPA had a criminal division as well. I got there. Yeah. Well, so five months later, I get a call from the Criminal Division, which I didn’t know they have downstairs and he invited me down to talk to me and the guy says, Hey, I used to hurt the city used to work for the FBI. But yeah. He said, Do you want to get your gun and you call back? I know what you’re talking about. He says, we have a criminal division of EPA. If you come to work for us, you get to go back in your car, like what? Now I’m excited. And he said, we just had a vacancy. So stupid me. I go, Well, why? Why do you have a vacancy in a criminal department? And everybody got quiet. And everybody’s looking down? I go, what’s the problem? He said, Well, the guy that had the job for you, you got shot two days ago. Thank you. I said what happened? He was walking across the parking lot. You just serve a subpoena. a mugger walked up to him, didn’t know who he was asking for his money, a fight ensued. The mug shot him and killed him that created the vacancy for the job I took. Well, now. Welcome to a new job. Somebody that a couple weeks early. Incredible. That blew me away. Yeah. Because then I realized you can actually get killed on this job. Wow.

Mark Williams 17:57
So some advice for those. This is going to come from left field. But I think you’ll understand why I’m saying I’m asking it. You have followed your passions your entire career, you’ve reinvented yourself several times. If you’re a young, if you’re talking to a 29 year old, 27 year old 26 year old Jim Thompson, what advice can you give someone who’s listening that, that maybe he’s in something they’re not they don’t like to do? Maybe they have some hobbies or some passions? How do you reinvent yourself? And how do you follow your passions? Because you’ve done that extremely well?

Speaker 1 18:27
I think that’s a good question. This is what I think I think. And I told him, I gave my son this advice. I think a lot of people have been taught to believe they can only do one thing. In other words, you can only be an FBI agent. You can only be an English teacher. But I think you can do multiple things. I think first of all, you have multiple answers. I think you can do not just both, I think you can do all know that I think you can do and well, so I didn’t realize I have a knack for FBI because I wasn’t trying. Nobody. My family was in law enforcement. I was at first. So when I get into FBI, I’m thinking how can I be a good FBI agent? Well, I studied hard and listen, I learned I watch people. I didn’t pull my gun and shoot every person I saw. The whole time I was in the FBI, the whole my whole 23 year career as a federal agent. I do my GM one time. That was in the first six months. I never do it. Oh, 22 years. Wow, never had to do that. So I would tell the person forget about the fear, but get about the thought that you only need to do one thing. My son was a graphic designer, art director, right? He’s also a writer. He’s also a producer. And I told him, You can do all that. And you can do it well. So like me, he’s doing several different things. But he loves it. Yeah. So don’t tie yourself to ones where you can have more than one dream. Sometimes you have to find out your own dream, but I think it’s okay. You can do that. What got you into acting? Well, that’s another story. So I’m at the EPA in Philadelphia, I’m working for the EPA. I’m really happy. So I’m watching TV one night and I’ll see this commercial pinball. That’s the way that I know that guy. That guy works for the EPA. it. So I go back to work the next day and I say, How did you get into acting? He said, Well, you know, I just went down to the local casting office. You know what, I took a couple of courses, you know, and I and next thing you know, I’m acting, he said, You can do it too. I’m like, Yeah, but I don’t, I don’t have any experience. In acting. He said, well just go out and do some breathing. Next day, I went down, stood in a line, it had to be 200 people in line to read for commercial. So I got discouraged and said, I want to get out of that. I’m not staying tuned to be. One guy said, Well, you already hear Jay 50% of success is showing up. You already here. might as well stay. I stay when my time came to read. They gave me some copy to read. I read it. They said, I really liked your voice. We think you make a good act. We got to send you out on audition tomorrow. So it was a local show being shot in Philadelphia. It was a T It was a cop show. And I went out and auditioned for and I actually got a rope. And I was acting right across from Andre Brown, the black actor who just recently passed. Yeah, so we’ve done that. And, and, and almost. So my first acting job was standing across from him. It was so funny. Because when they said cut, he won’t go to me. He kept looking. And he said, he stuck out his hand. He said, Hi, I’m Andre Brock. Do we know each other we met before? And I just felt like now we know I’m doing something we never met. I was blown away. He thought he recognized me. And for me, that was it. That’s all I needed. That was the push I needed. Describe

Mark Williams 21:30
for folks how you handled and you’ve had burnout several times, any tactics to overcome burnout. How do you how do you re motivate yourself to move on to something else?

Speaker 1 21:43
Well, I gotta be honest, we’ve got cemetech. The first first thing I do is I believe in meditation. I meditate a lot. I actually go into a room with all the lights off, no music plan, I just sit there. And I meditate. And while I’m meditating, I’m thinking and I’m also praying about what my end goal is, what do I want to get out of this acting job, a teaching job? Job? What’s my angle? So I visualize what it is I’m looking for. I try to keep my eyes on the prize. And for me, that helps a lot to visualize where you’re going. Because if you don’t know where you’re going, it’s like you just taking a planned trip. So I have to know where I’m going. I did not believe I know I was gonna be an FBI federal agent for 23 years. I think I’d be kicked out in the fourth year. I don’t think I will say. But I realized that the average people that FBI just like me to have insecurities, that extroverts introverts and as extroverted introverts like I am, I consider myself an extroverted introvert. I really am an introvert, but I can’t be an extrovert, if I want to be. So another thing is exercise. I won’t go into the FBI. I did not run five miles a day, I didn’t lift weights. And I said, when I get out of the FBI, I’m never going to exercise a day in my life, because it’s too much. Now I went for miles every morning, I’d be 70 years old. So. So exercise, I’m still working out, because exercise is a part of my life. And my mother, I may have told you this. On June 6, my mother will be 102. Yeah, incredible. In the DNA. As long as I keep working on Hobbies, I have a lot of hobbies as well.

Mark Williams 23:21
I was just going to ask you tell me a little bit about your passions on the side, which have now turned into full time I think, other

Speaker 1 23:27
than cooking, my other hobby is I ran I ran into something. First of all, I’ve never been clear with my hands. I’m not somebody who can build something on mixed up. I just I’m not crafty. So about five years ago, I went to a sick also cigar show with a friend of mine. I saw these beautiful cigar boxes like well, what is going on? This is where we tried to get rid of those boxes. We give jufa dollar apiece and they were beautiful wooden boxes. So I’m like What do you do with a cigar box? So I took a couple of home you know, I got to looking at them. I’m saying well, maybe I can make something out of these boxes. So I went on YouTube and started looking at it to tourism. What do you do with the cigar box, and I came up with an idea to make gift boxes. They can be jewelry boxes, men’s jewelry boxes. So now for the last two years I’ve been making a gift boxes out of cigar boxes that giveaway to friends. I don’t sell them. I give them to my mom, my son, my wife, but it relaxes me. Because I’m amazed at stuff that I could do that I thought I could do. So I I reinvented myself Oh no. Yep, you’ve

Mark Williams 24:32
never cease to amaze me. Tell me a little bit about we talked about balance. Your son and your son’s empty nester now, advice for your son. Obviously great career doing well. When you talk about balance and balancing your life and your work and spending time at home. What kind of advice do you give your son?

Speaker 1 24:55
Well, my son is very unique. Like I said he wants University of Delaware, he graduated from high school in 2013. He went to University of Delaware. And for me, that was a big deal because we live in Pennsylvania. And we did the whole college to try to get him to go to schools in Pennsylvania to Kansas, play whatever he says, I don’t want to go to school. I want to go out of state well out of state students, Cosmo Meyer, so he went to University of Delaware. And he was going for something different. You know, it’s like robotics, and then halfway, he changed his mind to graphic design. I have no idea where that came from. Because I sat him down and said, Look, we only have a small pot of money. If you go to college, you cannot afford to go and mess up my mind. He would employ us and not bad, because I’m not paying for five years, where he must have heard me this kid was at University of Delaware for four years, he made the Dean’s list the whole four years. Wow. He’s a smart kid. So when he got out, I’m like, wow, how did you do that? You know, so he’s not married. He’s single. He has a dog, you have a granddaughter? And just yesterday, we had a conversation. He said, Dad, are you disappointed that you’re not a grandparent? That’s it? No, because I don’t want to change diapers. So don’t rush me. grandparents. And his response was good, capital G or the zero, you’re not going to have a few grandkids tomorrow. So I’m not I’m trying to take your time. But when you find the right lady to marry, I was 26. When I got married the first time, I should have waited.

Mark Williams 26:23
Yeah, I’m in the same boat. Sometimes what we think we want and what we what we do are two separate things. 100% agree with you. They’re amazing career. When you look back on your career, you’ve done, you’ve made an impact on quite a few people, including myself, balance and you look back, are you happy with where you are with what you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished?

Speaker 1 26:45
You know what, I would not change the thing if I had to do all over again, I will, I might do in a different order. I may maybe go to the FBI first and then start teaching. But I think the way I did it, it was very interesting for me, because I didn’t know, I didn’t know I was gonna be an English teacher. I was gonna be a writer. So when you first met me, I had my insecurities. And I had my fears. And I didn’t know if what I was teaching was right. But you get I had no idea. And you guys confirm it by telling me hi, hi, good. I was how much you like my class, but I was just winging it. I gotta be honest. When I was flying by the seat of my pants, I had no idea what I was doing. And then the fourth year, I realized, all these kids are saying I’m a good teacher. So maybe I I didn’t look in the mirror and say you’re a great teacher. I did. I didn’t see that. I just thought maybe kids liked me because I let them be themselves. I didn’t judge them. We had conversations and told me something that was confidential. I didn’t want to tell anybody. I tried to be friends, somebody who did you could talk to sure a lot of teachers criticize me for that. And so a lot of teachers pulled me aside to James, you get too close to these students. Yeah, be real careful, you shouldn’t do that. And I said, why not? And luckily, I was never in a situation for somebody to accuse me of doing something I shouldn’t have been doing. Don’t girls say what Mr. Thompson touched me or said something. I was not in that situation where we both I respect the students and they respected me.

Mark Williams 28:11
Still writing? I know you are because of the book. So why don’t you give us a little bit of plug about the books and and how you your inspiration for that?

Speaker 1 28:18
Well, I started writing in 97, I was in the 10th grade. And my English teacher gave us an assignment to write a poem. I had no idea what she was. I don’t know how to write any poetry. So I went home and I struggled. I wrote this poem that was called reading between the lines of love, I thought was the most dumbest thing I’ve seen in my life. And I turned it in. And she called me after class. She said, Mr. Thomas, I’ll see you at the class. I go, Oh, what is it now? She said, You know, we have a school paper. We like to reprint your poem in the school paper like what? She sounds like, is that really good? Well, it got printed a school paper. And once I saw the byline, my name on it. I was hooked. So I’ve been writing it ever since. But I was writing kind of like in the closet. I didn’t want people to see my writing because I didn’t think was good enough. Yeah, I call myself a closet, right? So we years and years later, I published my book 30 years later, because I never thought I was good enough, right.

Mark Williams 29:14
Wow. Now you’re now you’re on book number two? Well, I’ve got

Speaker 1 29:18
four books out. And I’m working. Now. My next work. I’m working on a murder mystery, which will be my first novel. And it’s actually a murder that happened in my hometown in 1987. Various sad because there’s an 81 year old lady who was stabbed to death multiple times, and she was a poor lady. So my question is, who stabs the poor lady 15 times in the neck. And that case was a cold case in my hometown. 34 years later, they have no idea. Wow, now snooping around using my former FBI skills, my interview skills to get data on. She’s dead. And so as the person who killed her probably three, four years later, check with somebody I still need to know who did this. So my my love may be a mix of fiction and nonfiction to piece the story together. I think it’s a great story.

Mark Williams 30:08
Well, I can tell you, I think you’re a great story. couple takeaways. I love the fact that you’re a believer that you can do multiple things really well. And you surely are a testament of that. Love the way you handle burnout and admitted that you’re burned out, which, which I think is really commendable. I’ve spoken to quite a few people about burnout, and no one ever wants to admit that they got to their end of the rope. And you did that. And you did that successfully, you’ve had, I would argue three or four really separate careers in one in one lifetime, which is just unbelievable. And you’ve made a huge impact, at least on me. So let me let me just say thank you. And it’s been a wonderful road and journey to be in contact with you for almost 40 years now. I can’t thank you enough for being on the show today. Last couple of comments that you can leave people with.

Speaker 1 31:02
Yeah, I want to return a compliment to you because I want everybody to know what I feel about you, you know more. You have amazed me to wait the life you’ve built for yourself and your family. I mean, you have a lovely wife and your beloved children. I’m really impressed with you. You could have gone a different way. But you didn’t you stayed the course. You’ve built a wonderful life for yourself. And I have so I have to commend you for that. So that see you 40 years later, I can’t do anything but smile, because you know you were a kid in my class. But now you roll man with a family. Thank you. And I’m really impressed what you’ve done, even your podcast. I mean, I look at your LinkedIn posts and everything. You are good, but you are a great communicator. And for what I can tell you also a good manager and a good boss. People like Well, thank you very much you like people?

Mark Williams 31:47
Yeah, that’s for sure. Well, James L. Thompson. We are going to leave a link to the books for Amazon. So you can pick up some books. You’re gonna see him in some commercials, hopefully, maybe one day a movie. And if you’re special enough, you might get a cigar box, James. It’s wonderful to see you always, always nice to chat. And thanks again for being on the show. Thank you, Mark. Good to see you. All right, everybody balancing out burnout. We’ll talk to you next time. Thanks for listening. If you think balance is as important as I do, at work and all throughout your life. Help the show out by leaving me a five star review following me on social media, or sharing the podcast with someone you think would appreciate it. If you have comments or questions. I’d love for you to join the conversation with me on LinkedIn. I want to thank OBI Creative for producing the podcast and swells beats for getting the music for me. Thanks for sharing your time with me today. And until next time, this is Mark signing off.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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