The world’s most fortunate people are those who are have learned to live life around shattered glass. For TV host, author and keynote speaker, JJ Ramberg, life is all about breakthroughs, but she has been in so many that she isn’t even keeping track at all! Joining Jen Du Plessis on this interview, JJ shares her thoughts around change and breakthroughs, as well as some little juicy tidbits of her breakthrough life. A big advocate of change, JJ sees it not as something to be feared, but something to be welcomed with anticipation. Speaking of breakthroughs, JJ is knee-deep on yet another one! In this episode, she also introduces us to Goodpods, a new podcast curating platform and social podcasting app that takes all the good podcasts out there for everyone to listen and share with their friends.
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Living Life Around Shattered Glass: A Life Of Breakthroughs With JJ Ramberg
I am delighted to have a guest with us, JJ Ramberg. I was thinking about your name being Jennifer like mine and saying, “Why don’t you call yourself Jennifer?” JJ Ramberg is with us and I’m so excited because she’s got a great story about breaking through some ceilings that you’re all going to love hearing. Before I do it, I want to tell you a little bit about her. She was the host of MSNBC’s weekend business program, Your Business. If you’ve ever watched Your Business, you’ve seen her on there and she was there for a little over a decade. She’ll talk about that. She came from CNN so she’s got this great history in the broadcast world, which now takes us to the glass ceiling that she transitioned into. She cofounded Goodpods with her brother. We’re going to talk about Goodpods, too. Welcome to the show, JJ. I’m so happy to have you.
I’m so happy to be talking to you. Thanks for inviting me, Jen.
As I’m doing that introduction, I’m thinking if I were on this show, they would say, “Cut. Get rid of her because she can’t say their names right.” There are days when my mouth works right and there are days when it doesn’t. This show is one of those.
What that makes you is human.
I totally get it and I’m vulnerable. I could have very easily said, “Cut. Let’s rerecord,” but I never do that. I always flub up and hopefully, that’s what people like.
Now, you’ve basically given me permission to do the same.
You’re joining us from Colorado which is where you’re quarantined. I know this is where the family is and it’s not where you live or where you’re going to be living but tell us a little bit about what’s going on in your world during our pandemic.
It’s been an interesting time for everyone. Personally, we had created this company, Goodpods which is this app where you can follow your friends and influences to see what podcasts they’re listening to. We had set to launch in March 2020 as COVID hit. It’s been an interesting time for us to rethink our plans, decide what we’re doing, and then how we’re doing it. You know what it’s like to start a new company and suddenly, I have my children home with me as well. It’s been a complicated time and a lovely time at all coinciding together as it has been for so many people. To tell you the truth, my team was distributed beforehand. The way I’m working is not much different than what I was doing before.
[bctt tweet=”Goodpods is the Instagram of podcasts.” via=”no”]
I hate saying business as usual because it’s not. We have had to make some shifts and things like that but for someone like me, it’s generally the same thing too because all I’ve ever done is work from my home or fly on an airplane. For me, it’s a little different because normally I’m on the road 2 to 3 weeks out of every month. When I’m stuck at home, I had to get a new screen because the little laptop wasn’t going to work for months on end but I do think it’s a refreshing time too. With your particular situation and because now you’re moving, to a certain extent, it perpetuates people to make decisions. This is a clean slate. It’s not a setback. It’s an opportunity for us to set up something wonderful for the future. Would you agree?
It’s been nice because I traveled, my husband used to travel and probably will again. I have three children and they are so busy with soccer, drama and all their things. For us to get to be home together, it’s been nice and I’ve gotten my kids involved in the company. They all have little projects. I do miss my friends, strangers and a lot of things. My heart breaks for all of the hard things that are going on in this world but there are lots of moments here that it’s been a nice pause even though I’m up to my ears at work at the same time.
A lot of people I’m talking to are working harder now because there’s nothing to do except work. We have to learn to create boundaries for ourselves with that as well. Speaking of boundaries and looking at that as a glass ceiling as well, I want to ask you about your career. I have some questions about how you transitioned into broadcasting being on national news and all of those things relative to what you studied. You went to Duke University, your degree was in English, you got your MBA, and I’m going, “I don’t understand. What happened here?” I would expect that reading your bio, I would see, “She studied journalism, broadcast, or communication.” Tell us a little bit about how that happened. How that transition came about that you found yourself climbing up the corporate ladder?
I ping-ponged throughout my career between journalism and business. When I graduated from college, we traveled a lot when I was younger and I’ve always been very curious about other worlds. I didn’t think of the job as journalists as what I wanted to be but if I had described what I wanted to do, it would have been a broadcast journalist. I was lucky enough to get a temporary job as the receptionist for NBC Nightly News. Once I was there, I realized this is so interesting. I stayed there for a few years. Eventually, I worked for Dateline NBC as an associate producer but from a family of business people and entrepreneurs. At some point, I thought, “The world is big, let me go figure out something else.” That’s when I went to and I got my MBA. From there, I jumped backwards again. I went to business and then journalism. I started my company then back to journalism and now I started Goodpods. I keep going back and forth.
I love Goodpods because it’s a nice combination of journalism, broadcasting and entrepreneurship at the same time. You finally found it, do you think?
I found the thing that puts everything together. What I’ve loved about journalism so much is this ability to go in and out of all of these different worlds. I could plot myself down with one group of people, learn so much about and then with another group of people. When I discovered podcasts, it was the same thing as a consumer. I could learn about business and true crime. What I found hard about podcasts was simply curating them. There are so many great podcasts out there but I didn’t know how to discover new ones. That’s why we started Goodpods because I wanted to know what my friends and influencers were listening to. For me, it’s been fun to be not the one in front of the camera or the microphone but rather the one behind the scenes helping to surface up other people’s content.
We’ll speak to it here for a few minutes since we’re here. I feel very fortunate to be involved in the starting of this, spreading the word and being selected by a handful of people who felt that my podcast words something that would help this. It’s humbling and I absolutely loved the idea of it because I’ve been a podcaster for years. This is not my first show and I’m a veteran in the business. It’s so hard because people say, “How do I find you?” You’re like, “iTunes.” “I don’t have an iPhone.” “Stitcher.” “I don’t have an Android. I only have a computer.” It’s so frustrating because you want to share this with people and people want to hear it but it’s not an easy way to do it. I love that you’ve pulled everything together and curated everybody in one central location so that you can go in there and say, “I want to find out about love.”
All of them will show up about love. You’ll hear what your friends are saying. I get to post things about everybody and I get to listen to your podcast when I normally wouldn’t have if it’s not in front of me. I absolutely love what you’ve done. If you’re listening to this, go to Goodpods.com and then you’ll be able to download the app. It’s all app-related. It’s not non-online and then you can start looking, searching and commenting on this show too.
The whole reason we started this is because there are 30 million past episodes. It’s hard to let people know about your podcasts but the people who do know great podcasts are your friends and their influencers. I go on Goodpods when I’m about to go for a run or something and I think, “Let me see what my brother is listening to. Let me see what Jen is listening to.” If I like your show, I want to know what you’re listening to. It makes the whole thing simpler so you don’t only see the top ten podcasts the most listeners. There are so many great ones out there that people don’t know about.
Is it Spotify for podcasts? Is it Spotify that you can look and see what your friends are watching or listening to?
Are you familiar with Goodreads? We say it’s like Goodreads for podcasts or Instagram. It looks like Instagram for podcasts.
You can go there and make all kinds of little comments and stuff. If you’re reading this and you’re that business person who’s trying to make a transition or a person who’s trying to make a transition, try to make an impact in life, you need knowledge and resources to go to, Goodpods is going to be a great resource for you to head on over to. Thank you for sharing all of that. I want to talk about your breakthroughs. As we think back or as you think back on your life and you think about time, moment or a challenge that defines who you are. Tell us that story of that breakthrough.
I have done a lot of things in my life without thinking too much about them. For instance, when I was working for CNN, I had already gotten my MBA and I was producing for a woman who went on maternity leave, I’d always been interested in working in international development. I asked CNN while she’s on maternity leave, “Can I take her maternity leave off too?” I called everyone I knew and said, “Does anyone have a consulting job for me in international development?” I got this job for the summer working in Uganda doing microfinance. I didn’t know much about microfinance.
The next thing I know, I’m on a plane to Uganda. I land there. I don’t know anyone and it’s the middle of the night. I don’t even know where I’m going and I spent the whole summer going on the back of a motorbike visiting these villages and doing this consulting project for a microfinance organization. I feel like a lot of my life has been like that where something is interesting. I don’t spend very much time considering what’s going to happen and then I do it. It’s a series of breakthroughs that happened because I say yes.
I love that because sometimes it is a big breakthrough for someone spiritually, emotionally and physically, through business. For you, you’re saying, “I live my life around the shattered glass because I’m breaking through everything all the time in it. I don’t see it as a big glass ceiling. I see it as an opportunity.” What is it that you feel motivates you or gives you that drive to not even think about it as a glass ceiling? What do you think it is that propels you?
I am very curious and I like new things a lot. If anyone puts me in a situation that is brand new, I’m thrilled. That is my happy place, not knowing what’s coming up next. That’s why I’d like to start companies also. This is the second company I’ve started because it’s new. Every single thing you do is new and every experience you’re going to have is new.
[bctt tweet=”Desire takes away the fear of the unknown.” via=”no”]
You made that comment too that what you loved about being in journalism is that you could hang with a few people and then change. You’re definitely a change advocate and you like to experience that. Have you ever felt that change is more like a shiny object? Did you ever felt you can’t get enough traction in your life? The reason why I’m asking this is because someone who’s reading might be saying, “This change, I’m so afraid of it because I’ve made changes before. What if it doesn’t work?” Talk about that a little bit.
I definitely get scared of that. I’m not so free-spirited like, “Go with the flow.” I have moments of thinking this might not work, that I have invested all of this time and money into it. I spent thirteen years as the host of this program for MSNBC. I interviewed so many successful founders and CEOs and I asked them this question, “How were you able to take the risk?” What I heard from a lot of them is I went down the rabbit hole of what’s the worst thing that could happen. Let’s assume this completely fails. How bad is that? If it’s not that bad, there’s still food on my plate, a roof over my head and I’m okay with that then let’s give it a shot.
That’s interesting because a lot of people that are reading this blog are transitioning. They’re thinking about transitioning. They’ve already done it. They’re looking to see how should I do it? What is the best tactic for me? Should I take the risk? That’s good to have an assessment of what’s the worst that could happen. That’s very counter-intuitive to, “I want to make this thing fly and go but what if it doesn’t fly and go?” It’s good to know that so the desire overrides that risk.
It takes the fear out of it. It takes the fear of the unknown. I know the worst unknown and I’m okay with it. Another great piece of advice I got was from my friend Courtney Nichols Gould who has this amazing company called SmartyPants. It’s vitamins and very successful. It’s a great company but Court said and I lived this but she articulated it for me which is, “You have to go into things knowing they will be hard. Assume that at some point, this is going to be hard. That way, once you come up against the hard part, it’s not so shocking and you don’t know how to deal with it. You just say, ‘This is the hard part.’” That’s in business and relationships, everything you do, you’re prepared for it.
It’s interesting because that’s such a very simple, bare minimum thing that you would think everybody would do. When we get so excited about change and making an impact on people’s lives in whatever capacity through charity and world work or serving a client, we don’t think about the negative part of it. You’re like, “This is going to be great. I’m going to grow. This is going to happen.” We tend to look that way and we should say expect that. Why would we not, “I can’t believe this happened.” “Really? You can’t believe it happened but we’ve all said that type of thing.” How poignant is that?
It sounds simple but articulating that gets me through any hard times that I have.
For those of you that are reading, I have these things called the Truth Bombs. I’ve got a whole stack of them. Every day that I come in, I put this at the back, I grab another one and pull it up. For whatever reason, God gives it to me. It’s what I need that day. Be tough and flexible. That to me is like, “I want that card.” If you think it wasn’t going to be hard or you thought it was going to be easy, you got to be kidding me. It’s funny because it reminds me of Les Brown. I say this every other podcast that everything that he says is so true and he says, “If you do what’s hard, your life will be easy. If you do what’s easy, your life will be hard.” You got to put in the time and the effort into that. What’s it like to be you these days now that you have made another transition into this new world to Goodpods and you’re experiencing new people, meeting new people like we’re meeting? What’s it like for you now?
I enjoy it. My family here has been laughing. We’re quarantined together with another family. We’re very isolated and they all laugh at me because anytime we see a stranger, I’m like, “I’m JJ. What’s your name?” I’ll go to the market and I will spend 30 minutes six feet away talking to the person who’s checking me out because I love talking to people. This has been so fun because people in the podcast world are so incredibly nice and everyone wants to help each other. We’re all trying to grow this industry. Even before we launched, before we put pen to paper, I spoke to 600 people to say, “What do you like about podcasting? What’s missing? What could this product do?” It was the most fun I could possibly have.
You’re meeting new people all the time even if you’re virtual. That’s the expectation in podcasts anyway. That’s why so many people have been drawn to podcasts for so long that now hopefully everybody’s going to be joining it. The other thing that people need to understand because you are listening to a podcast right now as well is that we’re at the very infancy stages of podcasting. We are probably over a million now. The last time I heard, we had 985,000 podcasts. It’s probably over that now. There are millions and millions of episodes that are going out on a weekly basis and everyone thinks it’s saturated and it’s not. If you’re making a transition, you’re trying to break through and make an impact on people no matter what it is that’s driving you to make that impact, this is a great method for you to get your message out there to people.
It’s great. We have people that we’re working with on the platform. We have Kim Kardashian, Malcolm Gladwell, and Gwyneth Paltrow. We also have a woman who has a very small but fantastic dog podcast. These are all people that you can follow and see what they’re listening to. I find everyone has been so kind and helped each other. That’s the kind of industry that I love being a part of.
I think that’s going to become more prominent now as we’ve all had this opportunity to slow down and clean our slate. This isn’t a setback. I feel like this is setting us up for much more connection and engagement with people in the world. To a certain extent, I do believe it was divine intervention in saying, “You guys are all running amuck. It is time to slow down and get back to whatever it is.” What is inspiring you these days relative to whatever it is that’s motivating you these days? Are you reading books? Is there a specific book that you’re looking at? Are you into quotes? Are you getting back to nature? What are you doing to motivate yourself?
I listen to a lot of podcasts.
I knew that was coming. I set myself up but I offered the other solutions.
As I told you in the beginning, we had planned to launch this company and then COVID happened. We had to take a step back, our founding team and say, “Does the world need this right now?” We did a lot of soul searching because we felt, is it appropriate or inappropriate to launch this? Having to step back and ask ourselves that question, gave us more meaning and more purpose around launching this company. We had to say, do we have a purpose? Are we doing something that is useful for people and good for the world? Are we proud of it?
If I had known any of those things, we would have said, “Let’s stop for right now or forever.” We decided it is helpful for people. We are turning to podcasts. We’re turning to our friends and want connection. That has been a nice thing and giving me the motivation to launch the company. Also, frankly, having my family here with me, it has put so much into perspective and getting to have a big family dinner every night with us and this other family. It’s nice and makes you think about what matters.
I was going to tell you that one of my coaching students has started and on my suggestion, we were talking about doing COVID and cocktails and a lot of people are doing that now. Some people are doing curbside cocktails, curbside away, or a driveway away from their neighbors and that kind of thing. I had suggested that to her for working with the industry that she does to come together. What she did is she took it one step further and said, “Instead of a book club, we’re going to have a podcast club.”
[bctt tweet=”As we venture into new things, there is no way that we can do it alone.” via=”no”]
What they do is they all hop onto a Zoom meeting and they all listened to the same podcast then they talk about that podcast and how they can implement it, what it affected or whatever the topic is. They roam around with different names of podcasts like you would for a book club. It’s so smart to do something like that instead of me listening to a podcast consuming the information and trying to share it with people. It’s cool to get different perspectives. I wanted to share that because I think that’s also a great way to continue to learn, grow, and get different perspectives in whatever it is that charges you up about listening to a podcast.
You could be connected with people.
It’s been great, JJ, talking to you. I want to ask you as we end our time together, is there something that you would like to share with someone who is thinking about making a transition? Who’s in the middle of it or has come back out that you want to share about your experience that would help them be able to break a glass ceiling that they’re in right now?
My mother was a stay-at-home mom. She worked very hard but never got paid for it as I was growing up. She was in her mid to late 40s and she started a company with my brother that became a very successful company. This was pre-internet. My brother was right out of college. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. Nobody with that profile started a company in those days. Everyone told them they would fail which they didn’t. They had a very successful company.
They ended up selling that to Monster.com.
They did. My mom sadly passed away but she was the most dynamic person and she was great. When we were younger, she used to give us the book or read to us all the time The Little Engine That Could and that stuck with us. What I realized as I grew up, I started my own companies and my own career was that I added a little something to that which is also, I think I can’t. As we venture into new things, there’s no way we can tomb that we can do it alone and we also don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are people out there who can help us. When I think about my mom saying, “If I think I can.” It’s not that I can do anything, it’s that I can depend on myself to recognize what I can’t do and go get help. That’s how I get through a tough time. I said, “I don’t know how to do this. How am I going to do this?” When I’m up in the middle of the night, “Who can I go to for help?”
These times, it’s a great message as well because now is the time where you’re saying I don’t think I can do it during this time. No, you can and it’s the time to plant the seeds with new relationships, find new relationships, outsourcing to help you get through things and bounce things off people. Everyone is waiting at home for you to call them and ask questions anyway. That’s a great message during this pandemic. Thank you so much for that. I appreciate it.
You’re welcome. Thank you so much.
I want to say thank you for spending time with us. For those of you that are reading, if this is your first time, welcome. I hope that you enjoyed this episode. If you’ve been reading and following for a while, thank you. Thank you so much for allowing me to come into your eyes as you’re doing whatever you’re doing every day. We hope that this show continues to inspire you, to make any type of transition or change that you’re looking to do in your life. Thank you again for joining us, JJ. I appreciate your time.
Thank you, Jen. It’s good to see you.
- The Little Engine That Could
- @GoodPods – Instagram
- @JJRamberg – Instagram
- @GoodPodsHQ – Twitter
- @JJRamberg – Twitter
About JJ Ramberg
JJ Ramberg is an entrepreneur, television host, public speaker, podcast host, entrepreneur, best-selling author and mom.
For 13 years, JJ hosted MSNBC’s Your Business, the networks’s second longest-running program (and the corresponding podcast Been There. Built That). She interviewed thousands of entrepreneurs and business leaders to discover what works and what doesn’t when growing their companies. As a small sample, the show featured: Neil Blumenthal (Warby Parker), Jim Koch (Boston Beer Co), John Foley (Peloton), Jamie Kern Lima (It Cosmetics), Spencer Rascoff (Zillow), and Bobbi Brown.
JJ is more than just a journalist who covers entrepreneurship, though. She is a two-time founder who launched both Goodpods and Goodshop.
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