Father, New York University Instructor and Author of U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life) on being the best, naps and that particular Chernow biography that’s been staring at him from the nightstand.
WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
There is no true greatness in life without well-being.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND?
A rotating library of books on psychology, memoirs, and novels, plus a light by which to read. Right now it’s Grant’s Originals and Springsteen’s memoir Born to Run. Sometimes my eyes are bigger than my brain: Chernow’s biography of Hamilton has been there for about two years ago – and I just found out that America won the war! Oh, and Thoreau…always Thoreau. That guy has a permanent spot.
WHAT GIVES YOU GOOSE BUMPS?
Bach, Johann Sebastian. His music can be joyful or poignant, but man…it’s like a sacred road to goose bump city.
WHAT IS YOUR BAD DAY BACKUP PLAN?
Drop everything, choose something from the Melissa Clarke database of recipes, savor a trip to the market, and cook something delicious for family dinner. On really rough days I go to the gym and push my limits…hard.
WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR?
My son, my family, and my friends. Relationships are key and I am super lucky to have some great ones.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
Pursuing passions alongside people whom you love.
BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
“Don’t worry about being the best Daniel. Just do what you love and be the best that you can be.” (From my dad, although it took me about 20 years to get it through my thick skull.)
BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER GIVEN?
Living a great life isn’t about choosing one big thing, but rather striving to integrate all of your passions.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW THAT YOU ARE EXCITED ABOUT?
I have been giving keynotes for a number of years now, and last year during the Q&A after a talk on creativity and excellence, someone asked me how I personally pursued creative excellence. I paused for a while and then it hit me and I responded: “by doing this.” Switch…flipped. Ever since, I have been on a mission to elevate each talk – from the data and images to the stories and arc – from a presentation to a work of art. It is a pretty amazing high to feel like I am fully expressing myself and helping other people at the same time.
HOW DO YOU PRESS PAUSE?
I close my eyes. Naps rule.
WHAT DID YOUR 8-YEAR-OLD SELF LOVE DOING?
My eight year old self lived in Pittsburgh, home to the 1979 World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates, so wiffle ball — every day after school I was Willie Stargell, ripping home runs over the backyard fence (or breaking windows).
IF YOU COULD HAVE ONE MAGIC POWER WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Time travel. I learn lessons every day and it would be wonderful to go back and apply them in the moment (especially as a dad). Plus I would love to go back and observe the titans of history perform, rule, create, play ball, or just be human in real time.
WHAT MAKES YOU FORGET TO EAT?
Music and teaching. With the former I get into flow. The latter can be so challenging that when I am in front of the class nothing else exists.
WHAT 3 THINGS WOULD YOU GRAB IN A FIRE?
My family, my hard drive (for all of the family pics and videos), and a certain Native American necklace that holds a very special place in my heart.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE – YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE?
Writing my recently published first book, U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life). The pain and the joy of bringing it into the world is the closest thing that I can imagine to having given birth. (I think that my family would answer similarly: “The hardest thing that we’ve ever done? That’s easy – dealing with Dan as he wrote his book.”)
The french word “rassasier” is satisfying in both definition and intonation. Not only does it connote so many rich meanings for satisfaction, but when spoken with a proper accent it begins with a rasp before rolling toward a whisper.
FAVORITE WORK OF ART?
Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier can make me dance, cry, sit in wonder, and then jump up and down on the couch with a stupid grin on my face (sometimes all at the same time). How can a work for solo piano do so much? The way that the two hands speak to one another creates 96 distinct relationships and conversations – and somehow you care about each one like they are occurring in real time between living, breathing human beings.
Many years ago when I was struggling to understand why anyone would want hear my voice (and how to share it), my wonderful mentor Ronald Sharp recommended that I read Lewis Hyde’s The Gift. It totally changed my life, showing me the power of creating without expectation of others, and the joy, freedom, and magic that can come with sharing yourself with the world.