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Full show notes at www.LearningLeader.com

Twitter/IG: @RyanHawk12   https://twitter.com/RyanHawk12

Derek Thompson is a staff writer at The Atlantic and author of the books Hit Makers and On Work: Money, Meaning, Identity, and the host of the podcast Plain English.  


  • Before graduating from high school, Derek appeared in several theatrical productions at the Folger Shakespeare Theater and the Shakespeare Theater.
  • Why do Americans care so much about work?
    • workism is “the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose.”
  • Jobs, Careers, or Callings: One theory of work holds that people tend to see themselves in jobs, careers, or callings…
  • The Bow and Arrow metaphor… We need stress, but we need to let it go. You pull back on the bow and arrow… Then you let it go. Stress + Rest = Growth
  • “Happiness means being balanced between busyness and leisure.”
  • The mark of a good leader? Don’t be afraid to ask the ignorant question… Have the confidence to ask it.
  • Derek had breakfast with the prominent CEO… The CEO was deeply curious about Derek. Asked him a lot of questions, listened intently, and asked great follow-ups. Great leaders make their conversations about the other person. Follow your curiosity with great rigor.
    • That same leader also had the emotional intelligence to not bother Derek Jeter while he was having breakfast. He knew there would be a better time to meet.
  • The book, an anthology of Thompson’s articles for The Atlantic, includes a new adaptation of his essay on workism, a term that he defines as “the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose.”
  • “The decline of traditional faith in America has coincided with an explosion of new atheisms,” Thompson writes. “Some people worship beauty, some worship political identities, and others worship their children. But everybody worships something. And workism is among the most potent of the new religions competing for congregants.”
  • How Derek earned a job writing for The Atlantic out of college?
    • After being rejected 30 times, he applied for a fellowship with The Atlantic and got it. He then earned a job writing about economics for them even though he had no background or interest in economics. “It’s like the New York Yankees offered me to play second base even though I played catcher my whole life.”
  • How Derek earned a role as a podcast host working for Bill Simmons?
    • “Bill had me on his podcast to talk about Covid after he read some things I’d written for The Atlantic. That was sort of an audition. After he had me on, he asked if I wanted to have my own podcast on his network. We eventually came up with the name Plain English.”
      • The name of the show is very important. You want people to be able to easily say, “Hey, I listen to Plain English.”
  • How to predict the next great quarterback?
    • It’s contingent upon their surroundings (their coaching staff, receivers, linemen, etc…)
  • Life/Career Advice:
    • Skin thickness — It can’t be so thin that you can’t accept criticism, but it can’t be so thick that you stop listening. You have be somewhere in the middle.
  • Working hours — no large country globally averages more hours of work per year than the United States. Americans work longer hours, have shorter vacations, get less unemployment, and retire later.

One Comment

  1. Mukesh Bajaj May 9, 2023 at 4:36 am - Reply

    I can’t thank Ryan and Derek enough for tackling the subject of work, family, friends, life, and work-life balance in this podcast episode. The discussion was both relatable and enlightening, providing practical advice and perspectives that I hadn’t considered before. How Derek’s emphasis on setting priorities and fostering a supportive environment resonated deeply. This episode has motivated me to reassess my own work-life balance and make positive changes. Thank you!

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