The Scientist & The Juggler

“Your Turn Challenge” – The Scientist & The Juggler

I often refer to my oldest brother as the smartest dude alive.  They jokingly say “What is he?  Like a brain scientist?”  Yes.  He is.  He has an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He currently works at the FDA doing medical device research.  If I understand correctly, he conducts and directs lab research related to test methods for existing and potential future medical devices, mostly in the areas of brain/nerve physiology and human behavior. You can read about all the crazy cool kind of stuff he does on his LinkedIn page here:

He thinks and operates on a bit of a different level than I do, and yet I am grateful to have a very close relationship with him, and with both of my brothers.  Side note: my older brother John is also insanely intelligent in a different field (dentistry)… for another day.  I am grateful that all 3 of us talk / text on a somewhat regular basis, considering that we all have a lot going on.

What’s crazy is that as Gene discusses his world in science – from lab life to grant funding to publishing – and I discuss my world in entertainment – from Las Vegas ticket models to box office management to production elements – we see overlap.  All the time.  Not too much overlap in the contents of our disciplines, of course, but overlap in the frameworks, soft skills, the “plumbing” – i.e. the things you need to do in order to get to do the part of the job that is the only part that most people know about.

In these areas we find common themes and challenges that surface again and again, that we believe could apply to almost anyone forging their own career path.  We’ve been talking about sharing our conversations around these ideas for a while now.  We thought briefly about writing a book together but more recently have been talking about doing a podcast.  The Scientist and The Juggler…or maybe it should be The Juggler and The Scientist haha.

Our thinking is that if these parallels and overlaps exist between these two contrasting fields, surely they are pervasive to all fields. It seems like a fun lead-in because the apparent contrast between the fields of research and stage entertainment is so large, but nevertheless, Gene and I have told each other so many stories that “rhyme” over the years we have started to wonder if maybe everyone isn’t a little bit of a research scientist and a little bit of a stage performer. We’re wondering if our conversations about topics like value, leverage, people skills, focus, personal sacrifice, etc. might potentially be useful to someone and worth sharing.  Any and all ideas welcome in the comments section!

Gene and I both have jobs that people find intensely interesting despite having very little idea of what the job actually entails.  At most, people can picture the 10% of the job that matches what we might see in movies or in brief overlaps in real life – Gene with his Bunsen burner and lab coat, and me as “the star.”  There is no knowledge of what a successful working entertainer is like.  People hear the word “comedian” and they think Seinfeld.

This lack of understanding and sometimes lack of respect for the details of a career / industry really exists across the board.  How can I possibly have any idea what it’s like to be say… a teacher?  I’ve heard ignorant people say things like “How hard could it be?  You just stand up there and follow the lesson plan!”  I don’t have any knowledge of what it’s like to deal with 30+ personalities at once every day, and over time throughout the course of a school year.  I don’t have any idea how to handle school administration, teacher politics, how to create lesson plans, how to deal with parents, how to balance bringing work home with me like grading papers, etc.  In short, I don’t actually know anything about what it is like to be a teacher at all.  I know only the 10% that I can see, and even that 10% I’m probably wrong about.

I hear it all the time.  “He just gets up there and makes people laugh for an hour a day! That’s a pretty sweet gig!”  Yes, it is a pretty sweet gig, but the 75 minutes you see is at best “my 10%” of what my actual job consists of, and who I am day-to-day.  And, with the exception of a handful of special shows for special reasons, it’s often the easiest 10%. The other 90% is marketing plans, ticketing strategy, broker relationships, box office relationships, agent commissions, crew management, online presence, promotional materials, forecasts, advertising, tracking, local appearances / shows in Las Vegas, TV appearances, etc.  And even all of that, a Vegas show, is only 1 piece of my actual business, which is running an entertainment company.  Other pieces of Jeff Civillico Inc include taking the show on the road to corporate events and performing arts centers, speaking, leading workshops, hosting, doing charity work and appearances, etc.

Perhaps The Scientist and The Juggler could help expose this idea that often we don’t really know all that much about each other and our professions after all!  So what does that mean?  It means we should be respectful, and be curious.  We should be respectful of the intricacies of a profession, and of the years and years that someone has put into his or her career.  And we should be curious, because people are fascinating.  Someone’s job and life is probably not what you think.  If you show genuine interest, chances are they’ll be happy to chat.  Talk to them.  You just might learn something.

Jeff's brother Gene rocks a snuggy and a coffee

This post is part of the “Your Turn Challenge,” a 7-day blogging challenge created by Winnie Kao, special projects lead for marketing / business guru Seth Godin.  Learn more about the “Your Turn Challenge.” 

This is the final post of the challenge.  Thank you, Winnie, and thank you Seth, for jumpstarting my writing process!  This was a wonderful experience and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity.