Daniel J. Moran (M.A. ’92, Ph.D. ’98)
Q & A:
What was your favorite class at Hofstra?
Dr. Richard O’Brien taught an outstanding summer semester course called Learning which was about B.F. Skinner’s ideas and behavior analysis. I went on to become a board certified behavior analyst, so that class set my career path. But much more important, Rich made the subject very interesting, and my friends and I had a lot of good times during that class. Still to this day, when my classmates and I get together, we reminisce about that course! It was a fantastic time in our lives.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
Valparaiso University hired me as a professor and graduate director right after I left Hofstra. Those early years in academics taught me how to be a good public speaker and get a point across to a roomful of people. I feel very comfortable talking to large crowds today because I got a lot of practice back at Valpo. Teaching at Valparaiso University was an intense culture shock for me. It is a small Lutheran college surrounded by the cornfields of Indiana, so there was a lot to get used to after being at Hofstra.
What is your field of specialty?
I’m a psychologist, and I focus on using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in different work domains. ACT is an evidence-based psychology approach that helps people change their behavior in positive directions. At Pickslyde Consulting, I use ACT training to help leaders become more effective, teams to become more innovative, and organizations to become more productive. At the MidAmerican Psychological Institute, I use the therapies I learned at Hofstra to help people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. At Quality Safety Edge, I have participated in developing Behavior Based Safety programs for multinational corporations. Last year, I traveled around the world teaching ACT and behavior analysis in Kuwait, Sierra Leone, Italy, Brazil, and all over the United States.
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
Be present with what you are doing. Be mindful of now. Really make an effort to appreciate the current moment. Our minds can get so caught up in thinking about tomorrow and yesterday that we don’t really enjoy today! I laugh as I answer this because I’m thinking of a quote that has been misattributed to a Kurt Vonnegut college commencement speech: “Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded.” I’d really love it if every Hofstra student could become more skilled in contacting the present moment. Some college students are so focused on the diploma-of-the-future rather than absorbing the knowledge available in the current moment.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
What inspired you to start MidAmerican Psychological Institute?
It sounds cliché, but I set up the MidAmerican Psychological Institute because I like helping people. I especially enjoy using the skills I learned at Hofstra to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. I did my dissertation at Hofstra with Kurt Salzinger. That research project was published in a book called Understanding Behavior Disorders, and ultimately led me to get invited to work for Discovery Studios. I have made more than 15 appearances as the featured psychologist on Hoarding: Buried Alive and Confessions: Animal Hoarding. The work we do at MPI has been featured on The Learning Channel, Animal Planet, and the Oprah Winfrey Network. The TV work is a lot of fun, and I think it is making people more aware of the prevalence of certain struggles that people have.
What is the single most rewarding/exciting experience in your career thus far?
I’ve been blessed with a lot of great experiences in my life, so it is really hard to choose. I will not say this is the most rewarding experience, but I am proud to say that Jay Leno lampooned me, not just once, but twice on his late night show. The first time he goofed on me because a Chicago newspaper was advertising one of my public presentations, and the editor let a typo slip by calling me “Dr. Moron.” Jay Leno showed the clipping and wondered aloud to the national audience: “Who would go listen to a speaker named Dr. Moron!?” (Heck, even when my name is spelled correctly, I often wonder why people want to hear me speak!)
And then the next time, Robert Downey Jr. and Jay were joking about one of my particular episodes on Hoarding: Buried Alive. Downey was saying how he’d “like to switch places with one of those psychologists” and he was talking about me. I’d be thrilled to take him to a hoarding shoot, but I doubt he’d go in the houses with me. I’ve had some nice career successes, but having Iron Man poke fun at me on The Tonight Show was totally surreal.
You’re involved in many different businesses. You founded Pickslyde Consulting and the MidAmerican Psychological Institute, work at Quality Safety Edge, and do all those television shows. How do you balance work and life?
I don’t know if I have balance! But I do strive for harmony between my work time and my personal time. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve dedicated my career to using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help reduce suffering and increasing quality of life for people. In ACT, you are asked to realize that you will only get one life, and it is important to clarify your values so that you make the right choices for yourself. When you know what is important to you – and for me it’s my family and friends – it helps you make the right choices. Sometimes the right choice is to work, sometimes it is to turn down work! But in the end, do everything you can to live life to the fullest. My favorite saying comes from the lyrics in a SLipKnoT song: “The only way is all the way!”