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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    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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    Dr. Jane Goodall: A Dedicated Pursuit

    As a girl in England, Jane Goodall dreamed of traveling to Africa to study animals in the wild. In 1960, that dream brought her to Tanzania, to observe the wild chimpanzees at Gombe Stream Park. As she describes in this episode, other scientists did not believe that a young woman could survive alone in the bush, but Jane Goodall did more than survive. Her work revolutionized the field of primatology. She was the first to document chimpanzees making and using tools, an activity that had been thought exclusively humans. Over the years she also witnessed cooperative hunting and altruism, but also brutality and even warfare among chimps. Her work, the longest continuous field study of any living creature, has given us deep insights into the evolution of our own species. Since the 1980's, she has devoted herself single-mindedly to educating the public worldwide about the connections between animal welfare, the environment, and human progress.

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    Maya Angelou, Part 2: In the Spirit of Martin

    Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist and a friend of Martin Luther King Jr., years before she became known throughout the world for her memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." In this, the second our two Maya Angelou podcasts, she offers her personal reflections of Dr. King as a poet and as a man with with great humility (and humor). She talks about the state of the African-American community decades later, and the importance of using language to uplift (describing an encounter she had with Tupac Shakur to make her point). And in her powerful, unique voice, she reminds us of the eternal relevance of Dr. King's wisdom.

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    Maya Angelou: Righteousness and Love

    Maya Angelou took the harshest experiences in her life and turned them into words of triumph, justice and hope. Her memoirs and her poems told of her survival, and uplifted people around the world. Her first book, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," is a classic of American literature. Her voice and the rhythm of her speech were absolutely unique. In this episode you'll hear that iconic voice, in interviews, speeches and conversations, and be reminded why she was one of the most inspiring figures of the past century.

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    Albie Sachs: Freedom Fighter

    Albie Sachs awoke one day in 1988 in a Mozambican hospital, with no remembrance of the car bomb that had maimed his body. But it hadn't broken his will to remain in the struggle to end Apartheid in South Africa. This episode is drawn from Sachs's 3-hour conversation with the Academy of Achievement. He tells stories, with love and with humor, about joining the movement as a young white teenager in the 1950's, about his detentions in solitary confinement, about helping to write his nation's new constitution, and about becoming one of the first justices on The Constitutional Court of South Africa.

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