What It Takes
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What It Takes is a podcast featuring intimate, revealing conversations with towering figures in almost every field: music, science, sports, politics, film, technology, literature, the military and social justice. These rare interviews have been recorded over the past 25 years by The Academy of Achievement. They offer the life stories and reflections of people who have had a huge impact on the world, and insights you can apply to your own life.

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    Sally Ride and Eileen Collins: Wonder Women

    Sally Ride was the first American woman to rocket into space. Eileen Collins was the first woman to command the Space Shuttle. These two astronauts changed history and broke a very high glass ceiling for little girls. But they traveled different paths to get to NASA and achieve their dreams. Sally Ride graduated from an elite private school in Los Angeles and earned a doctorate in Physics at Stanford, while Eileen Collins was raised in public housing in upstate New York and joined the U.S. Air Force, where she became a test pilot. In this episode, both women talk about the obstacles they overcame to reach the highest of heights.

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    Frank McCourt: Teacher Man

    No one could tell a story better than Frank McCourt. His first book, Angela's Ashes, remains one of the most compelling accounts of poverty, alcoholism, and the longing for a better life. It won a Pulitzer Prize, and transformed McCourt from a modest immigrant and a lifelong high school teacher, into a literary celebrity. In this episode, you'll hear McCourt hold forth with tremendous humor and that lyrical voice - about the miseries of his childhood in Ireland, as well as his passion for teaching and writing.

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    Leslie Wexner: Victoria's Other Secret

    This is the story of Les Wexner's path, from a tiny, old-fashioned neighborhood store in Columbus, Ohio, owned by his immigrant father... to one of the biggest retail empires in the world. His company, L Brands, now includes that lingerie giant, Victoria's Secret, as well as Bath & Body Works, and Henri Bendel. But Wexner helped innovate the very idea of a specialty clothing chain store, with his first business: The Limited. Wexner has been CEO longer than any other head of a Fortune 500 Company, and at almost 80, he's still not slowing down.

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    Nora Ephron: Unstoppable Wit

    Nora Ephron knew just how to make people laugh and cry and kvell. But mostly laugh. She wrote some of greatest romantic comedies of all time, including "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle". She was a successful director and producer too, in an industry not very hospitable to women. In this episode, Ephron shares the most important lesson she learned from her mother: that all pain is fodder for a good story. She explains why becoming a journalist was the best thing she ever did. And she tells stories from her later career in Hollywood, including the one about how the famous faked-orgasm scene in "When Harry Met Sally" came about.

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    Bill Russell: Giant of a Man

    The most astonishing winning streak in the history of sports, belonged to the Boston Celtics. They won eleven championships between 1957 and 1969, eight of those in a row. And the player at the center of those wins - was Bill Russell. He changed the game of basketball, with his incredible speed, and his ability to block shots as no player had done before. When he took over as coach of the Celtics (while still playing on the team), he became the first African-American coach of any major sport in the U.S. In this episode, Russell talks about his life in basketball, and he describes how he was shaped by the racism he confronted, on and off the court.

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    Sonia Sotomayor: Power of Words

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor tells the extraordinary story of her voyage from the most dangerous neighborhood in the United States, to the highest court in the land -- a voyage fueled by the power of words. In a wide-ranging conversation with NPR's Nina Totenberg, recorded at the Supreme Court in 2016, Sotomayor shares her earliest memories of life in the tenements of the South Bronx: her diagnosis with diabetes, her trips to the market with her beloved grandmother, her father's death, and her love affair with books. She also talks about how she learned to learn, and to rely on the wisdom of friends and colleagues -- skills that carried her through Princeton, Yale, her prestigious legal career, and one beautiful throw from the pitcher's mound.

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    Sally Field: Embracing Fear

    Sally Field is one of the best actresses in America... on film, on television and on stage. She's won Emmy Awards and Academy Awards, and has had starring roles on Broadway. But early in her career, she was boxed in by her own success on tv, playing flighty girls like Gidget and The Flying Nun, and she couldn't find a way out. But Sally Field would not accept that destiny. She trained with the best acting teacher, Lee Strasberg, and transformed herself. It took a while for Hollywood to catch up with her, but eventually got the kind of roles and recognition she deserved -- for films like "Norma Rae," "Places in the Heart," "Steel Magnolias," "Forrest Gump" and many others. In this episode you'll get to know just how funny and charming and profound Sally Field is, as she talks candidly about her process of reinvention, and her discovery that fear is an essential path to change.

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    Reid Hoffman: Silicon Valley Grandmaster

    LinkedIn changed the way people navigate the world of work. It's hard to even remember the days (though not that long ago) when jobseekers opened the back of a newspaper to scan the help wanted ads. Well, LinkedIn was the brainchild of Reid Hoffman, one of the Silicon Valley visionaries who recognized, back in the 1990's, the internet's potential for a new kind of social and professional networking. In this episode he talks about how his background in philosophy led him to tech entrepreneurship. And he provides some fascinating stories about the early days of the online revolution.

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    August Wilson and Lloyd Richards: The Voice of Genius

    Meet two giants of the American theater: playwright August Wilson and director Lloyd Richards. Together they brought many award-winning plays to Broadway, including "Fences," "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," and "The Piano Lesson." August Wilson, who wrote ten plays (together known as the Century Cycle), started out as a poet. When he turned to writing plays, intent on telling the stories of African-Americans on stage, it was Lloyd Richards who recognized his talent and helped him shape it. Richards was already an icon in the theater world. He had begun his career a generation before, aspiring to be an actor at a time when there were almost no roles for African-Americans. His big break came when Sidney Poitier asked him to direct a new play called "A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry. In this episode you'll hear Lloyd Richards tell the story behind that ground-breaking production. You'll also hear both August Wilson and Lloyd Richards describe how they came to meet and have one of the most successful artistic collaborations in history.

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    Chuck Jones: The Fine Art of Laughter

    Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Pepé Le Pew were all brought to life in the hands of Chuck Jones. If there's a Loony Tunes or a Merrie Melodies cartoon that you carry in your heart, Jones was probably behind it. (What's Opera Doc, anyone?) He was artist, animator and director of 300 cartoons, in a career that spanned from the 1930's to the 1990's. Among the many awards he received was an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. In this episode he talks about the influence of Mark Twain, the origin of Daffy's voice, and the childhood pet cat that showed him the absurd humor of animals.

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