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  • In 1987, Tina Lord found herself in quite the pickle.

  • See, this gold digger made sure she married sweet Cord Roberts

  • just before he inherited millions.

  • But when Cord found out Tina loved his money

  • as much as she loved him,

  • he dumped her.

  • Cord's mother Maria was thrilled

  • until they hooked up again.

  • So Maria hired Max Holden to romance Tina

  • and then made sure Cord didn't find out Tina was pregnant with his baby.

  • So Tina, still married but thinking Cord didn't love her

  • flew to Argentina with Max.

  • Cord finally figured out what was going on

  • and rushed after them, but he was too late.

  • Tina had already been kidnapped,

  • strapped to a raft and sent over a waterfall.

  • She and her baby were presumed dead.

  • Cord was sad for a bit,

  • but then he bounced right back

  • with a supersmart archaeologist named Kate,

  • and they had a gorgeous wedding

  • until Tina, seemingly back from the dead, ran into the church holding a baby.

  • "Stop!" she screamed.

  • "Am I too late?

  • Cord, I've come so far.

  • This is your son."

  • And that, ladies and gentlemen,

  • is how the soap opera "One Life to Live" introduced a love story

  • that lasted 25 years.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, if you've ever seen a soap opera,

  • you know the stories and the characters can be exaggerated, larger than life,

  • and if you're a fan, you find that exaggeration fun,

  • and if you're not,

  • maybe you find them melodramatic or unsophisticated.

  • Maybe you think watching soap operas

  • is a waste of time,

  • that their bigness means their lessons are small or nonexistent.

  • But I believe the opposite to be true.

  • Soap operas reflect life, just bigger.

  • So there are real life lessons we can learn from soap operas,

  • and those lessons are as big and adventurous

  • as any soap opera storyline.

  • Now, I've been a fan since I ran home from the bus stop in second grade

  • desperate to catch the end of Luke and Laura's wedding,

  • the biggest moment in "General Hospital" history.

  • (Applause)

  • So you can imagine how much I loved my eight years

  • as the assistant casting director on "As the World Turns."

  • My job was watching soap operas,

  • reading soap opera scripts

  • and auditioning actors to be on soap operas.

  • So I know my stuff.

  • (Laughter)

  • And yes, soap operas

  • are larger than life,

  • drama on a grand scale,

  • but our lives can be filled with as much intensity,

  • and the stakes can feel just as dramatic.

  • We cycle through tragedy and joy

  • just like these characters.

  • We cross thresholds, fight demons and find salvation unexpectedly,

  • and we do it again and again and again,

  • but just like soaps, we can flip the script,

  • which means we can learn from these characters

  • that move like bumblebees,

  • looping and swerving through life.

  • And we can use those lessons

  • to craft our own life stories.

  • Soap operas teach us to push away doubt

  • and believe in our capacity

  • for bravery, vulnerability,

  • adaptability and resilience.

  • And most importantly, they show us

  • it's never too late to change your story.

  • So with that, let's start with soap opera lesson one:

  • surrender is not an option.

  • (Laughter)

  • "All My Children"'s Erica Kane was daytime's version of Scarlett O'Hara,

  • a hyperbolically self-important princess

  • who deep down was scrappy and daring.

  • Now, in her 41 years on TV, perhaps Erica's most famous scene

  • is her alone in the woods

  • suddenly face to face with a grizzly bear.

  • She screamed at the bear,

  • "You may not do this!

  • Do you understand me?

  • You may not come near me!

  • I am Erica Kane

  • and you are a filthy beast!"

  • (Laughter)

  • And of course the bear left,

  • so what that teaches us

  • is obstacles are to be expected

  • and we can choose to surrender or we can stand and fight.

  • Pandora's Tim Westergren knows this better than most.

  • You might even call him the Erica Kane of Silicon Valley.

  • Tim and his cofounders launched the company

  • with two million dollars in funding.

  • They were out of cash the next year.

  • Now, lots of companies fold at that point, but Tim chose to fight.

  • He maxed out 11 credit cards and racked up six figures in personal debt

  • and it still wasn't enough.

  • So every two weeks for two years on payday he stood in front of his employees

  • and he asked them to sacrifice their salaries,

  • and it worked.

  • More than 50 people deferred two million dollars,

  • and now, more than a decade later,

  • Pandora is worth billions.

  • When you believe that there is a way

  • around or through whatever is in front of you,

  • that surrender is not an option,

  • you can overcome enormous obstacles.

  • Which brings us to soap opera lesson two:

  • sacrifice your ego and drop the superiority complex.

  • Now, this is scary.

  • It's an acknowledgment of need or fallibility.

  • Maybe it's even an admission

  • that we're not as special as we might like to think.

  • Stephanie Forrester of "The Bold and the Beautiful"

  • thought she was pretty darn special.

  • She thought she was so special,

  • she didn't need to mix with the riffraff from the valley,

  • and she made sure valley girl Brooke knew it.

  • But after nearly 25 years of epic fighting,

  • Stephanie got sick and let Brooke in.

  • They made amends,

  • archenemies became soul mates

  • and Stephanie died in Brooke's arms,

  • and here's our takeaway.

  • Drop your ego.

  • Life is not about you.

  • It's about us,

  • and our ability to experience joy

  • and love and to improve our reality

  • comes only when we make ourselves vulnerable

  • and we accept responsibility for our actions

  • and our inactions,

  • kind of like Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks.

  • Now, after a great run as CEO,

  • Howard stepped down in 2000,

  • and Starbucks quickly overextended itself

  • and stock prices fell.

  • Howard rejoined the team in 2008,

  • and one of the first things he did

  • was apologize to all 180,000 employees.

  • He apologized.

  • And then he asked for help, honesty, and ideas in return.

  • And now, Starbucks has more than doubled

  • its net revenue since Howard came back.

  • So sacrifice your desire to be right or safe all the time.

  • It's not helping anyone, least of all you.

  • Sacrifice your ego.

  • Soap opera lesson three:

  • evolution is real.

  • You're not meant to be static characters.

  • On television, static equals boring and boring equals fired.

  • Characters are supposed to grow and change.

  • Now, on TV, those dynamic changes

  • can make for some rough transitions,

  • particularly when a character is played by one person yesterday

  • and played by someone new today.

  • Recasting happens all the time on soaps.

  • Over the last 20 years,

  • four different actors have played the same key role

  • of Carly Benson on "General Hospital."

  • Each new face triggered a change in the character's life and personality.

  • Now, there was always an essential nugget of Carly in there,

  • but the character and the story adapted to whomever was playing her.

  • And here's what that means for us.

  • While we may not swap faces in our own lives,

  • we can evolve too.

  • We can choose to draw a circle around our feet and stay in that spot,

  • or we can open ourselves to opportunities

  • like Carly, who went from nursing student to hotel owner,

  • or like Julia Child.

  • Julia was a World War II spy,

  • and when the war ended, she got married, moved to France,

  • and decided to give culinary school a shot.

  • Julia, her books and her TV shows revolutionized the way America cooks.

  • We all have the power to initiate change in our lives,

  • to evolve and adapt.

  • We make the choice,

  • but sometimes life chooses for us, and we don't get a heads up.

  • Surprise slams us in the face.

  • You're flat on the ground, the air is gone,

  • and you need resuscitation.

  • So thank goodness for soap opera lesson four:

  • resurrection is possible.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • In 1983, "Days of Our Lives"' Stefano DiMera died of a stroke,

  • but not really, because in 1984

  • he died when his car plunged into the harbor,

  • and yet he was back in 1985 with a brain tumor.

  • (Laughter)

  • But before the tumor could kill him,

  • Marlena shot him, and he tumbled off a catwalk to his death.

  • And so it went for 30 years.

  • (Laughter)

  • Even when we saw the body,

  • we knew better.

  • He's called the Phoenix for a reason.

  • And here's what that means for us.

  • As long as the show is still on the air,

  • or you're still breathing,

  • nothing is permanent.

  • Resurrection is possible.

  • Now, of course, just like life,

  • soap operas do ultimately meet the big finale.

  • CBS canceled my show, "As The World Turns," in December 2009,

  • and we shot our final episode

  • in June 2010.

  • It was six months of dying

  • and I rode that train right into the mountain.

  • And even though we were in the middle of a huge recession

  • and millions of people were struggling to find work,

  • I somehow thought everything would be OK.

  • So I packed up the kids and the Brooklyn apartment,

  • and we moved in with my in-laws

  • in Alabama.

  • (Laughter)

  • Three months later, nothing was OK.

  • That was when I watched the final episode air,

  • and I realized the show was not the only fatality.

  • I was one too.

  • I was unemployed and living on the second floor

  • of my in-laws' home,

  • and that's enough to make anyone feel dead inside.

  • (Laughter)

  • But I knew my story wasn't over,

  • that it couldn't be over.

  • I just had to tap into everything I had ever learned about soap operas.

  • I had to be brave like Erica and refuse to surrender,

  • so every day, I made a decision to fight.

  • I had to be vulnerable like Stephanie

  • and sacrifice my ego.

  • I had to ask for help a lot of times across many states.

  • I had to be adaptable like Carly

  • and evolve my skills, my mindset, and my circumstances,

  • and then I had to be resilient, like Stefano,

  • and resurrect myself and my career

  • like a phoenix from the ashes.

  • Eventually I got an interview.

  • After 15 years in news and entertainment,

  • nine months of unemployment

  • and this one interview,

  • I had an offer for an entry level job.

  • I was 37 years old

  • and I was back from the dead.

  • We will all experience what looks like an ending,

  • and we can choose to make it a beginning.

  • Kind of like Tina, who miraculously survived that waterfall,

  • and because I hate to leave a cliffhanger hanging,