The Drama Of Life: Lessons From Soap Operas with Kate Adams

Life is drama. That is what Kate Adams greatly believes, and she proves that by sharing some great insights about how soap operas parallel real life. Former assistant casting director at the Emmy-winning “As The World Turns” and popular for her TED Talk called “4 Larger Than Life Lessons From Soap Operas,” Kate shows us the power of storytelling to live the stories in our own lives. She reflects on binge-watching and the need to get rid of cliffhangers. She outlines four lessons from soap operas, showing how life in reality is no different. Learn as Kate points where the evil twins, soap opera amnesia, and other tropes fit in the real world and how they can give us wisdom as we go on living everyday.

TTL 281 | Soap Operas


I’m glad you joined us because we have Kate Adams. She is a storyteller. She’s got a very popular TED Talk. I stumbled on to it by accident one day on YouTube researching some work for my book on curiosity. I was just mesmerized. She tells a story at the beginning of her talk. If you haven’t watched it, go watch it. It’s amazing. I’m looking forward to chatting with her.

Listen to the podcast here

The Drama Of Life: Lessons From Soap Operas with Kate Adams

I am here with Kate Adams who’s a storyteller. She believes everything is a story and your story is everything. I am excited to have Kate Adams here. Welcome, Kate.

Thanks so much for inviting me, Diane.

You’re welcome. I told you that I randomly found your TED Talk. I look for things that are based on curiosity and I might have pulled it up because you talked about curiosity and personal evolution and certain things in some of your work. I’m watching your TED Talk. I’m just sucked in because you start with this story. I’m like, “What?” because it’s an unbelievable story. Everybody took to it. It was a great TED Talk. If anybody hasn’t looked up Kate Adams’ TED, it is worth watching. It is wonderful. You had spent eight years as an assistant casting director at the Emmy-winning As the World Turns before giving this talk. Can you give a little bit of background on what you do? Then a little bit about what the TED Talk, Four Larger-than-Life Lessons From Soap Operas, and how you got into giving that.

The best word or phrase that I most consistently hear is my background is nontraditional. That is the word that keeps popping up. It has been this curiosity-filled quest where I have stepped through doors as they opened. I see what I like and see what I don’t. I pick up skills and evolve in my career from that. I started as a local television news producer. I decided that was not for me. It’s a very specific environment. I decided I wanted to pursue this dream that I always had, which was working in entertainment. That led me to make a spur of the moment decision to move to New York. I ended up in corporate events. I worked for a boutique agency, but we did events for Major League Baseball, IBM, and the James Beard Award. We did all of these things. I was no longer writing stories, I was telling stories through all these other means that you use when you’re putting together an event. Food and décor, theme, what’s the entertainment going to be? It started to open my eyes to all the different ways that we tell stories in our lives.

From there, I loved working with the talent. I ended up getting a job at Warner Brothers Television Studios as a casting coordinator. That, in turn, led to As the World Turns for eight years where I was the assistant casting director. I had a long history of watching soap operas. As somebody who’s seen the TED Talk, you know a little bit about that. As the youngest of seven children, my sister is the oldest. There are five boys and then me. My sister got married when I was in first grade. We didn’t have a whole lot of things in common, but soaps for us were the common thread. I loved that whole experience, working with all the different departments, seeing what it takes to mount that whole production and create 250 episodes a year. When the show was canceled, there was a real shift in my life. The day after CBS canceled the show, my son was six months old at the time. He was diagnosed with the swine flu. It was during the H1N1 epidemic. We realized how isolated we were.

We were in the middle of New York City. We did not have the family and friend’s support network there to have both of us at the hospital at the same time. My husband had to be at home with our daughter. It was like “I’m ready for something different.” I started doing this analysis of what is it that I love? Do I have to be in this industry or could I be somewhere else and still pull that storytelling thread, which was the thing that I love? I get excited talking about the story. I decided we’re going to move closer to family and we’re going to find something where I can do this in a different way. I ended up going to work for UPS. I was writing a blog at the time. Someone saw my blog and hired me to be the voice of their online marketing content. That turned into a wonderful six years where I worked with a tribe of fantastic people and learned so much. I learned things that I never would have thought that I would be interested in if somebody had just said, “Do you think you’d like to work for a transportation and logistics company?” I probably would have been like, “I’ll pass.”

[bctt tweet=”When there is an objective that you seek, obstacles are always going to be somewhere on your horizon.” username=””]

I was like, “I don’t know. Let me see.” I was open to that and understanding that there is a much broader scope of things that I’m interested in that I might not have ever had that visibility into before. While I was at UPS, they started a content partnership with the TED Institute. They were accepting applications from all global employees and UPS has like 440,000 plus employees to submit their ideas. They had a theme. It was What If. My idea that I came up with looks like, “What if we could learn from soap operas?” I thought it was hilarious to me because everyone would say, “Where’d you work last?” I’d say, “As the World Turns.” They would go, “Look at me, cockeye”, and I’m like, “What?” That’s what led me to TED. From there, I went and worked for a company called BAMTech, which has now been acquired by Disney. I was embedded in a team of data engineers and machine learning PhDs to be the storyteller for that team. As I continued to evolve my experiences, the setting, locales and the skillset, frequently we tell ourselves, “I’m not sure and if I’m not sure about it, then I’ll just say no.” Instead of saying, “I’m not sure so why not?” That’s worked very well for me. I can say, “Why not?”

I love that you asked the questions. My work is all based on my book and information about curiosity. You start off with your curiosity-filled quest. That’s what attracted me to watching your talk, to begin with. As I’m watching you, you’re a very attractive woman and I’m thinking why weren’t you on As the World Turns as a star? You have this ability to act so well. Did you memorize that story at the beginning? How hard is that to do? I’m just going wild that went so smoothly and that would be hard to memorize.

I memorized the whole talk. That TED Talk was my very first public speaking engagement ever. As somebody who identifies as a storyteller, I believe that we crave story in our lives, that we tell stories to connect with other people. We also tell ourselves stories to understand the truth of the matter, the how and the why things happened. You asked, “Why was I never on screen?” We can get into a long conversation about talent, training, and all of that stuff. Where I can talk now very specifically about bravery and standing up and fighting for things that may have long odds for a long time, I was the thing that I needed to fight against. I was the thing standing in my own way. Where I dreamed of being an actor, it wasn’t something I pursued because I kept telling myself it wasn’t realistic. It wasn’t possible. In my TED Talk, I talked about this very famous scene of Erica Kane in All My Children shouting down a grizzly bear and scaring it away. For a good chunk of my life, I was my own grizzly bear and so many of us find ourselves in that situation.

TTL 281 | Soap Operas
Soap Operas: So many of us are standing in our own ways; we are our own grizzly bear.


It can be also a learning experience in a way that maybe you were more destined because you could do so much more with your storytelling instead of reading somebody else’s story. Your storytelling is what makes for a great speaker. That’s what you do now. You have a unique way of telling different stories. What you did in your TED Talk was give an example of what we see in a soap opera. As I was watching that, I went way back to when Carol Burnett used to have her As the Stomach Turns. They made a little play. Now, As the World Turns, do you know what I’m talking about?

I do. Carol was a huge soap opera fan. I believe she appeared on All My Children. She was a huge fan of All My Children.

She used to do a funny over-the-top parody of it on her show. We have modern day soap operas that maybe people do not even think of soap operas like Lost and Breaking Bad. It’s a soap opera because I’m tuning in to see where it goes. Do you have a favorite soap opera or a show like that that you just have to watch? Are you a binge-watcher?

That question is funny in a couple of ways. One is that my favorite soap opera right now is Game of Thrones. If anyone questions my diagnosis of Game of Thrones as a soap opera, all I have to say is the last episode we saw while we continue to sit in this huge lull of a cliff-hanger had one of these dopiest tropes ever with a genetic reveal. Much of television has become serialized. Scandal is another show that to me had a lot of soap opera elements to it. The Good Wife is another one that I love. I watched as a binge because my children were very small when it was just coming on. I chose sleep over television at that time. There are definitely elements of what people call soaps in many of the shows that are on air or online. The bingeing is because people will hold off on watching the show because they don’t want to have any gaps in between episodes. They don’t want to have to suffer through those cliff-hangers waiting until next week. They’ll just wait and watch it all in one go.

[bctt tweet=”Our egos and our desire to look right, perfect, and strong all the time inhibit our ability to connect with other people.” username=””]

I did that with Lost for the first few seasons. I was in the middle of it. I used to get so bummed I had to wait another three months or whatever it was until it started up again. I did like The Good Wife. I liked The Good Fight. I like all the ones you’re talking about. The cliff-hangers that we see, they have parallels in real life. I’m curious what you mean by that?

There were two specific incidents that helped me come up with this idea of parallels between soap operas and in real life. One was I had a meeting with my boss’s boss. It was a follow-up meeting. As we were in this follow-up meeting, he was talking to me. He remembered nothing of the earlier meeting. He was like a totally different person. I was like, “I’m pretty sure I’m talking to the evil twin, who is impersonating the guy I talked with the last time.” I’m sure he was having a bad day. How do you justify that he didn’t remember anything? There was that one. It was a Friday afternoon and I discovered that I had made a mistake. It was right before the end of the workweek. There was nothing I could do that day to fix it. I had to wait until Monday to talk to somebody and say, “I want to let you know this happened. We need to do this in order to fix it.” It wasn’t the end of the world. Because I had to wait that Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, until Monday morning to resolve the situation, it was a cliff-hanger. The drama kept building and building as I was sitting in a horrible Atlanta traffic with nothing to take my mind off of it except just hyper-focusing on this mistake, and I don’t even remember what it was.

It was relatively minor. I was focusing. I was somewhat catastrophizing like “I made a mistake and how is this going to look on my review?” I was imperfect. I thought it’s like the Friday afternoon cliff-hanger where you’d see the heroine driving down the road at high speed and then suddenly lights would flash. She’d veer off the road. You heard the sound of the wreckage. You tune in on Monday and she’d be in the hospital and her makeup would be perfect. She’d have a little bandage around her head. There was no real lasting damage. I thought, “What if I could stop living in fear of the cliff-hanger?” What if I could just step back and realize that it’s all going to play out in its own time and keep breathing and keep moving? People want to be in control of their own lives. When you have a cliff-hanger, it’s where you lose that element of control. You’re forced to wait. Frequently, we are impatient. We want instant gratification not just when we’re ordering something online and we want it here immediately. We want to watch this thing immediately. We don’t want to wait through commercials. Everything has become the condensed life where we are trying to eliminate any cliff-hanger or weight at all.

TTL 281 | Soap Operas
Soap Operas: People want to be in control of their own lives. When you have a cliffhanger, it’s where you lose that element of control.


In terms of fear, you talked about things we think are going to happen and we don’t want to live through the time of waiting. I had someone on the show who cited a study that 85% of what we fear won’t even happen. You’re going to end up with a Band-Aid on your head. You didn’t smash the tree in that 85% of the time. You talk about Four Larger-than-Life Lessons From Soap Operas. As we talk about this, you just gave as an example, can you share what are those four, list them all?

The four that I talk about in my TED Talk, the first one surrender is not an option. When there is an object or an objective that you seek, obstacles are always going to be somewhere on our horizon. They crop up every day in ways that we anticipate and can’t anticipate. We have the option to either accept that obstacle or to overcome it, go around or through. That’s what I was talking about earlier with the example of Erica Kane and the grizzly bear. Those complications crop up in all of our lives. Frequently, we determine the size and shape of it based on our perspective and how we frame it. Understanding what it is that’s important to you, what it is that you seek. It’s not a plan that’s the thing. It’s the goal and achieving the goal. That’s the first one, surrender is not an option. The second one is to sacrifice your ego. This one, people tend to find amusing and ironic because soap operas tend to be filled with very egotistical characters. Our egos and our desire to look right, perfect, and strong all the time can inhibit our ability to connect with other people. It speaks to the need for vulnerability, for acceptance of, “I made a mistake, I’m sorry.” The example I used in the TED Talk is Howard Schultz when he came back to Starbucks after an eight-year period where he stepped down as CEO and the company went through some hardships. He said, “I’m sorry.” He apologized to every single employee. It’s hard enough for me to say I’m sorry to my daughter when I snapped at her. I’m just having a bad day but saying I’m sorry to a group of people like that that you feel the responsibility for.

[bctt tweet=”Sometimes we hold on to ideas of who we are that are out of sync with who we actually are now.” username=””]

It’s that level of responsibility taking of acceptance of imperfection. That vulnerability fuels our ability to connect with other people and to also live in what Brené Brown would call a more wholehearted fashion. The third lesson is evolution is real. It goes along with the soap opera tradition of recasting characters where you’ll tune in Monday. You’ll then tune back in on Tuesday. It’s the same character, but they have a different face. The role of Brad Snyder is being played by Austin Peck. As someone who was in casting and needed to recast a character that was loved by the audience, you have to think about what’s important to the character. Is it the way the person looks? Is it who the character is deep down and what we want this character to do and how they function in the larger landscape and tapestry of the show? Sometimes we hold onto ideas of who we are that are out of sync with who we are now. I’ve seen this time and again specifically with knowing so many actors, people who realize they no longer love acting, but they don’t want to give it up because that’s how they’ve self-identified for so long. It’s understanding that we evolve sometimes out of pace with the logical side of ourselves and the need for curiosity and evolution. If the character does not evolve, there is stagnation. Ultimately, the audience becomes disengaged because it’s the same thing different day. We do that ourselves in everyday life. If you wake up and do the exact same thing every day, your brain starts to chunk.

Have you ever driven down the road and you get to your destination? You think, “I don’t remember driving the last five miles. I hope I was safe.” You become less aware of what you’re doing because you’re living by rote memory. Your brain just chunks that whole thing out and you don’t even have to think about it anymore. To me, that’s not how I want to live my life. We find ourselves more engaged in our own lives when we continue to evolve and pursue these things that make us curious and spark our imaginations and fuel our own personal evolution. The fourth lesson is resurrection is possible. My dad hated how much time I spent watching soap operas and he would just talk about how ridiculous they are. “I thought he died.” I’d go, “Yes, he did die, but now he’s back.” There’s a long history of characters returning from the dead. For quite a bit of my writing time as I prepared for this TED Talk, I was planning to speak about my oldest nephew, Bobby, who at the age of 24 was in a tragic car accident. He is now a quadriplegic.

There were so many obstacles in his way. From the outside like from my perspective, I could so easily see somebody’s thinking, “That’s it. This is my life now.” Never once did I see him take that route. He ended up going back to college. He ended up getting married. He has a beautiful little girl. His life has continued to grow and evolve in a way that so many people are thinking that tragedy, that life is over. It fueled this new life. I found it so incredibly inspiring. I was planning on talking about Bobby and the lessons I learned from watching him. The people at TED were like “It’s a great story,” but we think that you have a story as well and that it might make more impact sharing your own story. It took me back to that place of vulnerability where I had to walk the talk of what I was saying and share what was one of, if not the most vulnerable times in my life, which was I was unemployed for nine months between As the World Turns and UPS. I was scared. I couldn’t get an interview. People would talk to me and say, “You have such an interesting background, somebody is going to be so lucky to have you on their team.” I try to tee them up with, “I could do this.” I have all these transferable skills. They’d say, “You do,” but they couldn’t quite get to see how I could help them.

TTL 281 | Soap Operas
Soap Operas: In real life, we’re not one side of the coin or the other. We are the whole coin.


Having two small children living with my in-laws and trying to figure out how to parent in what felt like a fishbowl. Feeling like every day I was encountering rejection, it did feel like a death to me because I had given up the cape that I thought existed. I was a New York casting director, working in the entertainment industry and now I was one more unemployed mom living in my in-law’s home during the recession in 2010. My story was not singular by any means. When you’re in those troughs, it can so often feel like you are the only one who’s going through that. I feel like these lessons layer on one another because that one to me is inextricably tied to vulnerability. The need to share that and only through my sharing that and asking for help was I able to receive help. It was gratifying for me to share that story and then be contacted by people from all over the world. There were messages from China and Iran about people thanking me for sharing that story. There was one person who said, “Whenever I’m feeling down, I watch your TED Talk,” which that to me made it worth it. It was terrifying for me to stand on that stage and tell that story because I was telling it in front of my entire chain of management up to the CEO and talking about how I felt unemployable. In the back of my head, I’m telling myself the story of, “What if they rethink my employment here? Why do we pay this soap opera chick here?”

When they started cheering, I’m sure that everybody was laughing. Your story it was so great. I’m sure you’re going, “Thank, God.”

At that point in the delivery, I was in a fugue state. When it was over, I didn’t even know. I had reached this level of separation between the body that was on stage and my mind because I was, “Did I drop whole sections of my text?” People ask, “Do they have teleprompters?” No, they don’t. It was a very emotional thing. That’s why public speaking can be tremendously challenging especially for people who don’t become immediately oriented toward something that they want to do. That was me. I took Latin because it’s a dead language and I didn’t want to speak in class. Getting up on that stage was challenging for me. With anything else, the more you do something, the easier it becomes. The interpersonal exchange, almost the live theater element of it to me was gratifying. If you listen carefully at the very end, you can hear people in the audience saying, “Amen,” and responding to it.

[bctt tweet=”We find ourselves more engaged in our own lives when we continue to evolve and pursue things that make us curious.” username=””]

As you said that, it reminded me of all those things. A lot of us who speak can relate to about, “Did I say what I wanted to say? Did I forget the entire parts?” I remember speaking for Forbes. I was onstage. I remember getting up. One of my jobs was teaching for Forbes, but I also taught for seven other schools. When I introduced myself, I could not remember if I told the right school. All of a sudden, I got this look on my face like I just stopped dead. I can remember thinking, “I have said the right school where I work,” because these are the people who hired you for this. You get these moments and I did. When I saw the video later, that part wasn’t even in it. Maybe I said the wrong thing, I don’t know. You get up there and you think, “Don’t say something stupid.” We have a sense of needing to be perfect. We have it be as good as it can be. We tend to be our worst enemies. I saw some of the notes you sent to me about you discuss impostor syndrome, perfectionism, and all that stuff and how it relates to evil twins. I got to know what the evil twin and how does that relate to that.

The evil in soap operas, twins are never just twins. They’re the exact opposite of each other. One is everything kind, good, and loving. The other is dark, twisty, and manipulative. In real life, we’re not one side of the coin or the other. We are the whole coin. We have to learn how to live with the duality of our personalities. We’re not always going to be kind. Sometimes we will snap at someone. Maybe we’ll be a little cross. Sometimes the poop rolls downhill. We take up frustrations on someone else. Very frequently especially with female twins on a soap opera, one will be dressed a little more promiscuously than the other. The other will be Suzy Homemaker thing. There is certainly an element of the impostor syndrome because, with twins on soaps, the evil twin is usually at some point trying to pass him or herself off as the good one. Frequently, I have found myself in situations where I think, “I’m going to put on my armor today.” This is the outfit I’m going to wear. This is how I’m going to do my hair. I’m going to do my makeup. I’m going to walk in there. I’m going to have the appropriate level of gravitas. I am going to say this and that. It’s all going to go to this plan because that’s who they expect. That’s the good twin.

When something falls apart within that, whether it’s a small chink in the armor or a bigger one, it can lead to this shame spiral. It didn’t go as planned or it wasn’t just perfect. I feel like there is this Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook element to our lives that we’ve started incorporating broadly and not just on social media where we feel like we have to present just the best parts of ourselves. That ultimately leads us to feel shameful when we don’t live up to that all the time. We curate our lives so that we look #blessed. We make everything look like we’re #winning. Ultimately, we find ourselves sitting at home, staring at a device. We feel like a big #fail. There is this Photoshopped element of our life. There is this authenticity that I crave. I talk to loads of other people and they seem to crave it too. They want that authenticity from their leaders. I was listening to a political conversation yesterday. I live in Georgia. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, is in debt to the IRS. In other political cycles or other races that may be a liability to someone depending on how you approach it. She has approached it very much with accountability as she has explained the choices that she made to defer tax payments so that she could help her parents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

TTL 281 | Soap Operas
Soap Operas: The things that hook our curiosity are the things that resonate with us.


She’s been very upfront about it. She hasn’t tried to deflect. She hasn’t tried to airbrush the situation. She’s been very honest about it and people are finding that impressive in a way that it makes her seem even more like us. She has education loans that she owes money on. She chose to do this instead of that. I’ve been in a similar situation. It makes her more human. Politics is another great soap opera. Frequently, we try to airbrush or distract or say, “Don’t look over here. Don’t look at this or airbrush something to make it look other than as it is.” To me, I found that especially in this age where we try to minimize anything that doesn’t look perfect, I found that compelling. That to me is storytelling. That is part of who she is and the story that she is sharing with the Georgia voters.

It’s interesting to see how people either embrace all aspects and show more of themselves or try to filter out some of what they do. I talked to a salesperson who I know pretty well, who I knew wanted to sell me something. When you saw the nice side of the coin until I said, “I wasn’t interested in that.” It started to spin over to the other side a little bit. You get an image of somebody and you think they are this way. Everybody’s got both sides of the coin. It’s hard to live up to what everybody else is showing is this perfect thing to be with social media. It’s important that you use examples from soap operas to point out these things because we can relate to it. You also pointed out another part of soap opera, which I found interesting, is about negative assumptions we make about them. Sometimes you hear soap operas and you don’t always think of the highest level of television. Before you answer that, do they use teleprompters? Do these people memorize all this stuff or they just know?

These actors are the Olympic athletes of actors. They memorize it all. At least on As the World Turns, I can’t speak for other shows, but they memorized it all. There were actors on our show who would some days have 40 pages of dialogue a day. They might work four days that week. Imagine learning 160 pages of dialogue in a week. It’s not like you reuse that. You recycle it when it’s done. The complexity of acting on a daytime drama is amped up because of the production schedule. On our show, we had an executive producer who was incredibly efficient. We could shoot 100 pages of dialogue in an 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM a day with a break for lunch. Plus, it’s a union set so you would have your morning break and your afternoon break. That meant you had to quickly learn your blocking, which is where you stand and where you cross. You have three sometimes four cameras shooting you at the same time, so you have to hit your marks. All the lighting is on a grid above you. That has to be just perfect. It’s not like shooting primetime or a feature where they break down the lights and camera in-between each shot to make sure that everything is perfect. On a feature film, they might shoot two pages of dialogue a day. It’s seeing people dedicated to the craft of it, of creating that much story in a year. The negative assumptions were definitely things that I ran into just telling people, “I work at As the World Turns,” or things like that.

[bctt tweet=”With anything else, the more you do something, the easier it becomes.” username=””]

As I prepared for TED, the TED Institute curator gave me a little heads up about the normal TED audience. If you look at the comments on my TED Talk on YouTube, you will see that there were some assumptions made about certain things. Usually, about the audience of soap operas where the assumptions tend to be that they’re very passive. They’re women who just sit on their couches and eat bonbons. To this day, that’s still an assumption and a stereotype made of a very passive audience that’s not very intellectual. They’re highly dramatic in their own lives. If you take any cross-section of the world, you’re going to find people who fit that. What makes soap opera fans is their activity, not their passivity because they do become invested in these people who come into their living rooms day after day five days a week. We have celebrity couples that are like super couples. Super couples started with Luke and Laura. That is a daytime soap genesis story. It’s the super couple. There’s this fan worship for all sorts of primetime shows and celebrated shows. That fandom to me is born from the daytime drama fans and just the cross section of it. Immediately after giving the TED Talk, I went to a reception. Someone came up to me and said, “My mother-in-law who is this intellectual Upper East Sider in Manhattan, never misses her shows.” There are a lot more people who maybe don’t watch now but did watch at some point that you might never guess there is shame and stigma attached to it. That was part of my desire to give this love letter to daytime.

Also, my dad as I mentioned, he used to nag me. He was like, “You’re wasting your life watching the show.” When I started working at As the World Turns, he started watching it. He became such a fan. We named a character after him. It wasn’t a major character, but he got such a kick out of that. As he was dying, he said, “What’s going to happen to Henry?” I said, “I only know the next six weeks of story.” I told him what was going to happen. I was like, “I’ll keep you informed.” People see things there that resonate with them. For instance, Henry was somebody who loved his martinis and had a dry wit. That was how my dad saw himself. That became his favorite character. We see these things in whatever story we see across whatever screen of whatever size that we’re looking at. The things that hook our curiosity are the things that resonate with us. It could be something fantastical which soap operas so frequently are but there is a kernel of truth there at the heart of it. These soap opera characters are on a continuum like this Russian doll continuum. They’re the biggest doll. You can see their features the best. The size, the shape, and the design of them are the same as the smaller versions which we are. Some of us more than others certainly I wouldn’t say somebody like Oprah Winfrey was the tiniest doll nestled inside of the matryoshka. There is that kernel of truth there. That’s what I was trying to crack open and share.

When you talk about fantastical, it brought to mind Modern Family. I’m sure you’ve probably seen the episode where they did coincide with the Hispanic soap opera. They take the whole episode. It mimics what you would see in a Hispanic soap opera and their life parallels it in an over-the-top way. I thought it was creative. Have you seen that by chance?

I have not seen that episode. One of my favorite shows, have you ever seen Jane the Virgin?

I haven’t, but I’ve heard great things. Do they do the same kind of thing?

There’s a show within a show. One of the characters is a telenovela star. Many plotlines within the show are similar to telenovela storylines, but there is very much a heart there, which is family. In Modern Family, you can tell by their title. In every soap opera or telenovela, the family is the heart of it.

[bctt tweet=”No matter how hard we may try to live undramatic lives, this is what life is, drama.” username=””]

There are so many great things that you could pull out from just what you’ve said here and from different well-written shows like Modern Family where they show us how we are part of these characters. The one thing you did also send me that I wanted to ask you about that we could get from it is soap opera amnesia. What’s the real world equivalent of that one?

Soap opera amnesia is not like real-world amnesia. Soap opera amnesia is you fall down the stairs, you hit your head, and you forget everything for a short period of time. Then it all comes flooding back. This bump on the head usually coincides with some very dramatic thing that you’re about to do. You’ve made a decision in your life. You’re going to break up your marriage or you’re going to go do this. What the amnesia does is put a pin in that story. It allows you to go someplace totally different like that didn’t even exist. What I believe the real-world equivalent of soap opera amnesia is when we decide I’m not dealing with that. I’m going to pretend that didn’t exist. I’m going to put it in a box, put that box at the top of my mental closet. We’re going to ignore it instead of dealing with the messy truth and inevitable complications. The thing about soap opera amnesia is that somebody always remembers. It’s always so much worse than dealing with things head-on because the time that elapses allows things to build in dramatic ways. We think on some level we’ve escaped. I got away with it. I didn’t have to deal with it. I ignored it. I buried my head in the sand and it worked. I have yet to stumble across an occasion where putting a pin in something and moving in a totally different direction expecting that thing that I buried is going to stay buried. It’s never made the situation better. It amps up the drama. No matter how hard we may try to live undramatic lives, that’s what life is. Life is drama.

You don’t face it. Thinking of not facing it makes me think of that Brooke Shields Friends episode where she thought Joey was great. I don’t know if you saw that. She did a great job. Her over-the-top acting blurred the lines of reality and soap operas. There are so many great examples out there. You had so many great examples in your talk and what you’ve shared here. Many people could benefit from watching that TED Talk and hiring you to speak. If you start your talk with that same story every time, I was just mesmerized. I’m sure everybody else will be. I was wondering if you could share a link if people wanted to find you, is it or did you have another link? How can they find you?

First of all, thank you. Secondly, my website is There are request information buttons on there or you could just direct email me at

Kate, this has been so fascinating. I’d be afraid to give another TED Talk if I were you because I don’t know how you’d start it.

I’m not sure I could do it on soap opera, but there are loads of other things in the world that inspire me and make me curious, so maybe one day.

I look forward to it. Thank you so much for being on the show. I enjoyed it.

Thank you so much, Diane. I appreciate it.

You’re welcome.

I want to thank Kate for being my guest. I loved her TED Talk. I know I’ve said that so many times but please check it out. I could imagine she must give the best talks when she comes to organizations because she was so dynamic in telling her story at the beginning of that talk. She had some great information here and it all ties into what I’m interested in developing curiosity. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the site, we are doing preorders and different things with the book right now at You’ll get some information you can download. You can find out more about the training and all that that we’re offering for HR professionals and consultants. I’m excited about the launch of Cracking the Curiosity Code and The Curiosity Code Index that we’re planning to launch at the beginning of 2019. If you’ve missed any past episodes of Take The Lead, you can go to I hope you enjoyed the show. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Kate Adams

TTL 281 | Soap Operas

Kate Adams is a storyteller and has a popular TED Talk. She believes everything is story—and your story is everything. Storytelling is the common thread in Kate’s varied career. Starting in television news before moving to event production, casting, and digital marketing and analytics, each role relied on her ability to get to the main idea and bring it to life for her audience. Each twist in her personal plot taught her more about the creation and cultivation of story; how we use that arc to build our own journeys and that each of us is, perhaps, our own most important audience. The stories we imagine, create, and pursue for ourselves are pivotal to our happiness.

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