Daniel Lerner

Do what you love—what you’re truly, harmoniously passionate about—and you’ll excel in all you do.

Instructor of NYU’s “The Science of Happiness” | Author of U Thrive

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Daniel Lerner | Instructor of NYU’s “The Science of Happiness” | Author of U Thrive
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

As instructor of the ever-popular NYU course, “The Science of Happiness,” and author of U ThriveDaniel Lerner uses positive psychology to help people lead happy lives. With cutting-edge research into how executives, artists, and athletes overcome anxiety, Lerner teaches us to achieve well-being, rediscover our core strengths, and define success—on our own terms. 

U Thrive is full of the insights and practical tips I wish I’d had as an undergraduate. It’s a user’s guide to the mind and body, written for young adults on the cusp of mastering both!”

Angela Duckworth, Author of Grit

Lerner is a faculty member at New York University and part of the teaching staff at the University of Pennsylvania (where he works with the graduate program in Applied Positive Psychology). In the classroom and in his talks, Lerner integrates storytelling, humor, and science, helping students and executives apply his teachings into their lives with immediate benefit. His class “The Science of Happiness” is currently the largest and most popular non-required course at New York University—due in large part to the positive changes that students report throughout the semester. This year he will guest lecture or offer keynotes for NCAA coaches, at numerous financial institutions, and with Carnegie Mellon University, NYU’s Steinhart School, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Iowa, and Purdue University, among others.


Following a decade at International Creative Management (where he specialized in the representation and development of young performers) and at 21C Media Group (where he was a co-founder and the director of artist development), Lerner studied closely with renowned sports psychologist Dr. Nathaniel Zinsser—a Director of The Center for Enhanced Performance at the United States Military Academy at West Point—focusing on coaching and performance enhancement techniques employed by professional and Olympic athletes. He holds a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.


“Outstanding. Wonderful. One of my former board members was in tears, came up to me, took my hands, and said, ‘Les, he changed my life.’”

ACC New Jersey

“We had students fill out an evaluation on the conference, and I think two quotations that overall summed up the group were: ‘Loved Dan Lerner!!! Absolutely astounding, intriguing and very approachable; will continue conversation [with him] after this!’ and ‘Bring Dan Lerner back!’ Mr. Lerner was a joy to have on campus. We appreciated the effort he put in the conference to call us and tailor his expertise to our needs, which extended to his arrival when he immediately took interest in our students. It was clear that Dan finds true joy and passion in helping students and many benefited from that this past weekend.”

Purdue University

“Dan is electric! When he speaks, people tune in like the world is on pause. In the 10 years that I have known Dan he has done speaking engagements for my wealth management practice, to clients and referral sources, and for my alumni association (University of Maryland). The responses that I receive after each and every event are beyond positive … they are uniquely exceptional.”

Oppenheimer Funds

“Last year I attended the Good Life Project Immersion Program run by Jonathan Fields, and Dan was a member of his faculty. We connected not only because we both love sports but also how we both are interested in helping people discover what lights them up and to live from that place. He has a rich background on so many topics, but what I love about Dan is how he delivers his sessions. They are full of real life scenarios, current research and funny stories. I am not surprised his class at NYU, ‘The Science of Happiness’ is one of the most popular on campus! When you see Dan teach, you immediately sense his intelligence, intellectually AND emotionally. He has worked with corporate executives, elite musicians, and athletes on how to enhance their performance and use positive psychology to build and sustain success. Dan knows how to help people move toward excellence.”

True North Sports

“When I was connected to Daniel Lerner through a professor in the UPenn Master of Applied Psychology Program, I didn’t realize how lucky I was. I had been looking for a speaker for a Penn mindful leadership retreat, and Daniel ticked all the boxes for relevant topics: excellence, positive psychology, and goal-setting. Daniel takes the stage with an optimism and passion that is evident in both his subject area and personality. His presentation was ranked the highest by far from our participants, and the rave reviews I received afterwards about him were endless. By not only explaining the psychology, but also posing thought-provoking questions, Daniel made sure the speech was interactive and reflective rather than simply passive. We have asked Daniel to come back to our next retreat as a featured speaker, and I hope we can continue to welcome him there!”

University of Pennsylvania/Wharton School

Speech Topics

Passionately Successful Making the Most of Ambition and Happiness

Cutting edge science now shows that when we pursue our passions in the correct way, we can realize the highest levels of personal and professional success.


In this talk, Daniel Lerner defines two types of passion: harmonious, and obsessive. When you’re harmoniously passionate, you not only love what you do, but you are more focused, energetic, and productive, and live a far more fulfilling life. Conversely, obsessive passions are marked by a compulsive, dogged pursuit of achievement, leading to guilt, shame, pessimism, unhappiness, and, far too often, early burnout. 


Drawing on a diverse cast of iconic cultural figures—from Richard Branson to Ellen DeGeneres, Nelson Mandela to Kanye West—Lerner illuminates the difference between healthy and dangerous passions, how and why to ignite, explore, and stoke your healthy ones, and even how to find passion in work that you may have given up as passionless long ago. And if you’ve fallen into patterns of blind obsession, Lerner helps you transition out. Ultimately, this keynote is a fiery, fun, and practical primer on how to live a successfully passionate (and passionately successful!) life.

Positive Excellence Using Positive Psychology for Excellence and Success

In this fun, inspiring, and information-packed talk, positive psychology expert Daniel Lerner discusses the surprising impacts that well-being can have on the development of excellence and expertise. Lerner’s key message is that ‘success and happiness’ is not an either/or proposition. In fact, science is showing us that well-being can give us remarkable and unexpected leverage in our pursuit of peak performance. 

This talk incorporates a host of cutting-edge research, an array of real-world examples, and a diverse cast of iconic cultural figures, including Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Jay-Z, Mone Davis, and Teddy Roosevelt. A mixture of captivating storytelling and useful information, this is a fascinating keynote that will help professionals in all domains improve their mental health, raise their mental game, and realize success on their own unique terms.

Thriving in College Achieving Success in School and Beyond
For many students, the college experience has shifted from four years of thriving to a harrowing journey merely to survive. Rates of depression and anxiety among students are skyrocketing, expectations and competition are more intense than ever, and with online distractions and social media providing entirely new obstacles, today’s campus is markedly different from that of yesterday. 

Featuring highlights from Daniel Lerner’s popular NYU class “The Science of Happiness” (the largest non-101 at the university), this talk will help students make the best of these crucial four years, both inside and outside of the classroom (and offers parents key tips to helping this happen, as well). Fast-paced, engaging, interactive, and immediately applicable, Lerner shares with audiences how to cultivate greater optimism, resilience, willpower, and better relationships. He also reveals the science behind why positive thinking can lead to better grades, a more satisfying social experience, better levels of performance on the stage, field, and in the classroom, and even higher post-grad salaries.

Touching on key aspects of the post-secondary experience—roommates, dating, diet, work, exercise, sleep, study habits, grit, and passion—this talk will help students and parents understand the habits that can get today’s co-eds out of the mode of merely ‘surviving,’ and into that of ‘thriving’—in both college and beyond. This is the talk graduates wish they could have heard while still in school. With the science of positivity, Lerner is changing the way students see school for good.