Rebecca Jarvis Gets Honest About The Trade-Offs She's Made For Success

Photo: Lou Rocco/ABC/Getty Images.
Rebecca Jarvis wants to know how powerful women really achieved their amazing success. And lucky for you, she shares these intimate conversations weekly on her No Limits podcast. The ABC News, Emmy-winning journalist celebrated her 100th podcast episode earlier this fall, and has continued to talk with some really impressive women (including Refinery29's own editor-in-chief, Christene Barberich).
We caught up with Rebecca by phone just before her 100th episode aired to talk about women and ambition, her favorite interviews, and the personal trade-offs she's made to achieve her own success.
Congratulations on hitting 100 episodes of your podcast. That must feel like a big achievement!
It's a really cool feeling because when we set out to do this, we had no idea what the response was going to be. We had no idea if we could even book the interviews. I feel really proud of the work, and I feel really proud of the team of people who put the things together, week after week.
What's the most surprising thing you've learned hosting your podcast?
People talk about the fact that no one has it all figured out, but then when you're hearing that from a CEO or a founder or someone like Issa Rae — to hear all of these women basically say, "There's no real playbook. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing, but I'm continuously trying to build off of my relationships and trying to pursue things that have meaning to me," I find that comforting.
There's also a practical side of demystifying success. I had a conversation with Ursula Burns, who was the first Black woman to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company. We talked a lot about the path to CEO, and specifically the building blocks you need to get there. That was another reason why I started No Limits, because I wanted to demystify some of those steps. There are so many different ways to get to the top, but there are certain building blocks that. If you're going to apply for the role of the CEO of a publicly-traded company, you have to know about.
Do you have any favorite interviews or notable quotes that have stuck with you?
It's so hard to choose one. I genuinely leave every single interview feeling more energized and more excited than when I walked in, no matter who I sit down with. Hearing Nicole Richie talk about reinvention, and the idea that you really have to know yourself. If you're trying to do something big, you're going to have a million people telling you, "Go this direction, go that direction," and you have to know in your gut who you are and which direction you want to go in.
I had a really interesting conversation with Wendy Williams. She talked about when she was getting started in television, she was basically told by every TV executive, "Lay off the radio version of Wendy Williams. There are people in the country who aren't going to get that Wendy Williams, so you have to lay off and ease into her." What I thought was fascinating about that conversation was that Wendy never did anything that was counter to her core values. She tells a great story about being asked to wear khakis and a button-down sweater!
I get to interview a lot of high-powered women — you for example — and I find that talking to women about their ambition has really impacted my own career, and it has given me a lot of courage to go out and do things that in the past I would have thought of as too hard. I was wondering, has interviewing these women influenced your own ambition?
The word you used is courage, and I think that word is something that has really been solidified for me through these conversations. I would have considered myself an ambitious person before. I would've thought the same thing of you did before having the conversations with women. But I think what's happened is, it's those smaller moments where you make choices. Do I speak up? Do I take this risk? How much thought am I really giving to my day-to-day and what matters to me? It's in those areas, I would say the conversations have been most instructive for me.
Looking back at your own career, you didn't start out in journalism. You worked in finance first. What made you make the switch?
I originally chose finance because I was coming out of college with a huge amount of debt. I realized that if I went into journalism right away, I would basically be paying off my student loans for the rest of my life. So I went into finance, and it was a great foundation. I got to see that world from the inside, and I think it was really useful, especially when I left and was covering finance during the financial crisis. It was useful to have that inside point of view.
You've talked so candidly in your interviews about the trade-offs people make to get their careers. What kind of trade-offs you've had to make for your success?
I would say that I've made a fair number of personal trade-offs. Earlier in my career, it was spending time with friends, missing birthday parties, that kind of thing. My husband and I lived long-distance for two years because I moved to New York for a job, and he stayed in Chicago for his job. That was tough. There were some hard moments in our relationship. There were definitely times where the plan would be for me to go to the airport on a Friday night, and work would come up and I would put work first. I'm really, really lucky that he was the kind of person who understood that and respected me. I think that in the long run all of this was the foundation of a great relationship.
To be honest, I think a lot more about friends and family now that I'm getting older, and they are really important to me. They always were, but I think I was almost myopically focused on work and so a lot of those things took a backseat. It's one of the reasons I have the conversations with women [on the podcast] — how do you figure out the work-life juggle?
What's next for you? Do you see doing another hundred episodes? Am I going to be interviewing you at number 200?
Yeah, let's do it! I like the direction that the podcast is heading. I feel like I'm involved in the conversations. I love learning. I love that these conversations highlight for women who are in various stages of their career. My goal is to continue to do that, and to continue to get better and stronger every single week, and to continue to ask questions that the community wants me to ask.

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