TED@UPS: What If Daytime Dramas Taught Life and Business Lessons?

There are more parallels between soap operas and real life than you might realize.

Kate Adams | UPS

Kate Adams worked on soap operas for eight years. Her experience became surprisingly helpful in tackling problems in the “real world.”

Kate one day realized that daytime dramas aren’t all that different from our own everyday dramas.

Her talk is being featured on TED.com – click the link below to view. Afterwards, check out our Q&A with Kate. She talks about her experience giving the talk and what she hopes people will draw from it.

Q. What was the most enlightening surprise from the experience and why?

Wow, nothing about the experience was what I expected. It wasn’t like writing an essay or prepping a presentation for senior leadership.

It was more than words on a page, and it wasn’t enough to simply give a performance: I felt a need to really give myself fully to the story.

The TED team pushed me past my comfort zone, through what was essentially a dark, dark forest of panic and self-doubt, and somehow back into a different comfort zone I never knew existed.

Actually giving the talk was a blast.

By that point, I’d pushed and pushed and pushed myself to refine my thoughts, had wrestled with every word, and pruned the non-essentials to fit my time allotment.

That was tough.

But once I started to speak — and could hear the audience laugh and murmur in agreement — that was unexpected joy.

Q. What do you hope people take from your TED@UPS talk?

So, the idea for this talk just kind of popped into my brain during a long Friday evening commute.

I was sitting in traffic, sifting through the day’s events, and noticed I was spending way more time thinking about the one thing that didn’t go perfectly rather than the handful of things that went really well.

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What could we accomplish if we believed we could bounce back from failure?

Logically, I knew it wasn’t the end of the world, but it felt like a fiery car crash — just the kind of Friday cliffhanger that would keep you wondering all weekend if your favorite character was doomed.

Then I remembered the daytime TV hero is never really doomed.

She’s a survivor: No matter how gnarly the wreckage, you’ll soon find her with just a bandage around her head, hair perfect and makeup flawless.

And I thought, what if we stopped living in fear of the cliffhanger?

What could we accomplish if we believed we could bounce back from failure?

I’d love for that little spark to resonate with people.

Q. How did giving a TED@UPS talk inspire you?

Two things immediately spring to mind. I loved meeting my colleagues who’d been on their own TED journeys.

Talking with them, hearing their concerns and celebrating their triumphs — individually, they inspired me, and as a group, they energized me.

It’s amazing how a dozen people can bond so quickly over a shared experience.

The other was more hard-won.

I’m a persistent person, so I work hard and, generally, without much of a break. I like to get things done and put a bow on them.

But one month before my talk — after nine straight hours of staring at my laptop — I thought, “I can’t do this.”

Every idea seemed under cooked, and each sentence sounded overwrought.

My speaker coach gently instructed me to close my laptop and wait 24 hours before opening it again.

I felt like that was giving up but discovered it was actually a gift.

I needed that space to regain my equilibrium and let the thoughts untangle themselves.

I learned I can’t press my way through everything, and if I try, I risk breaking it.

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It doesn’t have to be perfect or brilliant immediately, it just needs potential.

Q. How would you inspire someone thinking about giving a TED@UPS talk?

It pretty much comes down to this: If you have an idea, submit it. It doesn’t have to be perfect or brilliant immediately, it just needs potential.

While I’d had my idea for a year, I never did anything with it.

And about 36 hours before the deadline, I just banged out my submission and sent it.

You know those people who tell you to sleep on it and read what you wrote again in the morning?

Yeah, that wasn’t me. I emailed my pitch around midnight — and then spent the next few weeks second-guessing myself.

But for those four hours I worked on my submission, I didn’t second-guess. I didn’t worry about looking silly.

And I didn’t wonder if it would hurt if I was passed over.

Mainly because I knew I’d hurt more if I didn’t try at all. goldbrown2

Click here for Kate’s bio.



Every morning, wake up to the blog that gives you the latest trends shaping tomorrow.

Kate Adams is a Managing Editor of UPS.com

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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.


  1. assirekaevas

    Dear Ms. Adams,

    Thank you for sharing what I need to hear today. The company that I had thought I would ride off into the sunset of retirement with turned a new leaf that I took exception to in a few, significant ways and I’m looking down into the ravine of job searching after 11 years off the market. I take responsibility for the end result and resulting separation, but that doesn’t change anything. It’s scary to think of what’s next. Or maybe it’s scarier to think of what isn’t next. Right now,
    “I don’t know”is the only answer to either. Did I mention I can’t stand variables? 🙂

    I just turned 36 in August and although I still think I’m a spring chicken, I’m sure not everyone will see it that way out in the Wild Wild West that is the job market. I’m not scared that I can’t do, well, anything I put my mind to, I’m more anxious about opportunities being kept or offered for reasons I have no control over… like some 22 year old with ink still drying on their college degree that will work for less money and extended hours, because although I know that I’d do more work in the 8 hours of regular business than that newbie could do in a pay period complete with a healthy chunk of overtime, sometimes that isn’t clear or the person looking isn’t, well, looking.

    I had been consoling myself with some redundant affirmations that were quickly getting stale when I came across your TED talk and it was like it had been posted just for me. I’ll be forever grateful for the balm it provided and the hope it brought out of hiding. Thank you, thank you, so much for the pep talk. I’ll never forget it.

    My Best & Warmest Blessings,

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