Archive for the ‘Work and Play’ Category

More than two and a half years ago, I moved to Chicago and embraced the city as my own. I’ve eaten some amazing food, watched the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, survived three football seasons as a Packers fan and met lifelong friends. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my post-college life.

The corner stone of my Windy City experience  is my office and my co-workers. The environment is challenging but nurturing, our clients are industry leaders, and the people I work with are intelligent, driven, and some of my best friends. I’ll never be able to replicate this group of people and the environment but I’m excited to say:

I’m moving to London.

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Where did this come from?

A few months ago I started searching for opportunities to diversify my experience and set myself apart from my peers. After a week in New York, I came back to Chicago and reached out to my mentors and the agency’s leadership for guidance. During one of these conversations, someone pointed out that my plan didn’t exactly line up with the goal. It was during this conversation that we started to talk about opportunities abroad and how to make the most of my skills.

When am I leaving and for how long?

My plane leaves Chicago on Saturday, March 19th, less than two weeks from today, and I’ll start working at Weber’s London office on Wednesday, March 23rd. My apartment in Chicago is already down to the bare minimum, thanks to Mama Piehl, and I’m quickly evaluating everything I own and deciding what will come with me. My work visa is for three years and near the  end of each year, I’ll evaluate my experience and work with the London office to determine if I’ll stay in the UK or move back to the US.

Am I nervous?

You bet! I’ve been looking for new opportunities since September and have been discussing logistics with London since the middle of January. You would think this is enough time to overcome any fear or doubt, however, the reality of my situation didn’t sink in until this past Wednesday when my friend Sami gave me a book about Chicago and wrote on the inside, “Now you get to keep some of Chicago with you!” Like a slap across the face, I finally felt the reality of my transition.

Thankfully, the timing couldn’t be better! My apartment lease is up at the end of this month, my family is tremendously supportive, and there is nothing permanent connecting me to Chicago. I’m going to miss my friends and it seems weird to move now that I’ve established myself in the city’s different networks and social circles, but my fear is that if I don’t do this now, I never will. As a fun bonus with this change, I’m able to cross off two of my 25 in 25 goals in one move: visit Europe and move some where new.

What’s next?

Packing and partying – but not necessarily in that order. Help packing is always wanted but it’s not expected. However, this upcoming Friday I’m tearing it up and enjoying my last weekend in Chicago. Location: TBD.

Cheers,

Joe

Windy City

The last few months have been filled with trips nearly every week.  From weddings and visiting friends to work trips galore, at the end of this month I will have visited 12 different cities in three months (September – November) and it has been a whirlwind adventure.

Each trip was fun and I’ve always learned something new. In Portland I met the man who started the city’s microbrew culture, in South Bend I attended my first NCAA football game EVER and during several of the trips I had the pleasure watching my friends get married.

The Combos Team with Rob Widmer, one of the founding brothers of the Widmer Brothers Brewing Company and the Portland microbrewing culture.

The majority of my work trips have been on the weekends because two guys in my office and I are creating 10 city profiles for the Combos Facebook page. Earlier this year COMBOS, a client, released a ranking of the Manliest Cities in America and our video profiles highlight the manliness of each city. (The video profiles can be seen here.)

Since it doesn’t take more than an eight hour shoot to create our 2-3 minute profile, most of our trips are around 30 hours from the time we leave for O’Hare to the time I plop down on my bed and avoid laundry. And despite the years of traveling I’ve done with my family, these trips, combined with weddings and other trips, have forced me to hone my travel skills.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a young professional starting to travel more, below are a couple things I’ve learned from my travels.

1) Learn to sleep on a plane.

According to the Harvard Business Review, sleeping on a plane is one of the keys to corporate success. And from my own experience, learning how to do so will make your 4 hour flight feel like 2 minutes. When you can, throw a small travel pillow in the carry-on you plan to put below your feet. Also, try to snag a window seat.

2) Never check a bag.

Don’t believe me?? Mama Piehl works in the lost baggage office for an airline in Milwaukee and she can talk to you for hours about why you shouldn’t check a bag. If you have to check a bag, keep a spare set of socks, underwear and a shirt in your carry on, along with the essentials you can’t live without (house keys, medication, glasses, etc.).  Everything else, deodorant, tooth paste and a spare shirt, can all be replaced if your bag is lost or delayed.

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3) Pay the bills ASAP!

If you’re traveling for work, bring an envelope and at the end of every day put all of your receipts in it. The last thing you want to learn two weeks after your trip is that you lost the receipt for your rental car or one of your meals. If you’re traveling with friends, ask them to bring their checkbooks so everyone can square up before you head to the airport.

4) Prepare for the security line.

Going through TSA stinks, and if you’re following my second tip, you’ll probably have two bags with you. Make TSA breeze by wearing shoes that easily slip on and off, putting your lovely bag of toiletries at the top of your carry-on, and taking off anything you know you’ll have to take off at the front of the line while you’re waiting in line. Imagine how simple screening will be if aren’t fumbling with a watch or trying to jungle your laptop in one bin and everything else in another.  (Hint: Don’t worry about your belt. A certain amount of metal is acceptable in the screen process and you can cheat the system by placing your hand over it when walking through the metal detector.)

5) Act like your trip is a night on the town.

Flying used to be a romantic event categorized by men in suits and fedoras and flight attendants that would make a teenage boy red in the face. Now an airport terminal is filled with men reading the soft core porn they purchased at the Hudson News store and women in velour tracksuits. Guys, use this as an opportunity to throw on a blazer, look sharp and travel like you’re the James Bond of coach. Ladies, nothing will turn heads like a pencil skirt and a pair of pumps walking through O’Hare or JFK – and if you see me at the airport bar, come say hi. Your first drink is on me.

In all seriousness… when you look nice at an airport, you’ll be more inclined to treat the occasion like a formal event and you’ll treat people better than normal. And in return, they’ll show you the same kindness, which might mean the window seat I mention in my first tip.

What are your travel tips / rituals? Any horror stories from TSA or an angry passenger?

Cheers,

Joe

I am a huge flirt. Flirting is fun and exciting but sometimes it can get you in hot water.  I’ve known the love of my life for as long as I can remember but in February the dynamic of our relationship changed and I struggled to find the best way to move forward.

The first time I saw her, the only word I could muster was a slightly muted “Wow.” She’s stylish with a sleek body, she carries a freedom that can’t be replicated and when she goes out no man can resist staring. If you’ve meet me in real life chances are pretty good that you know that I’m not talking about a girl, I’m talking about a motorcycle.

I fully support anyone that rides and most motorcycles are awesome but I have a special place in my heart for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. My “aspiration bike” is 2011 Fat Bob with a denim black scheme, blacked out engine and as little chrome as possible.  The 96 cubic inch Twin Cam can tear up the road and the seat is just big enough for an attractive female to hop on back and wrap her arms around me.

 


Modeling for the Fall MotorClothes catalog during the early 90s.

 

My love for Harleys started at a very young age because Papa Piehl works for Harley-Davidson and my immersion into the culture started before I was born. Growing up a fair number of my vacations were in the same city as a Harley event and when I was about six months old I posed for my first Fall MotorClothes catalog. My excitement for the brand strengthened with time and one of my proudest accomplishments is earning my motorcycle license before my driver’s license. If that weren’t enough, in college I spent a couple summers as a service advisor for Milwaukee Harley-Davidson.

It’s easy to see why I’m an advocate for the brand and why I’m excited to work on the Weber Shandwick account team for Harley-Davidson.* But at the same time it posed a problem for me in regards to transparency on Twitter: What is the best way to balance my love for the brand with the work I am doing for them?

Transparency is an important issue to me, the agency and the Federal Trade Commission because fake online reviews are everywhere. This made part of my answer was easy: If I’m doing something for work, tell people it’s a work project. There are a variety ways to be transparent and it’s not tough to add a disclaimer in a blog post or tag a tweet “client” or “employer.”  This is something our digital team has always told us and is a large part of our digital guidelines.

 


My normal going out clothes.

 

The challenge arrived when I wanted to share online articles regarding H-D announcements or an event Papa Piehl was attending (a.k.a. The Maxim Hot 100 Party, the annual rally in Sturgis in South Dakota, etc.). Since the company has a knack for stellar events and radical bikes, I decided the best way to navigate this gray zone is to ask the question: Would I re-tweet or talk about this if Harley-Davidson wasn’t a client?

Nine out of ten times the answer is yes because I’ll be talking about Harley-Davidson motorcycles regardless of where I work and what happens in my life. Now if only I can justify the Harley tattoo I’ve been thinking about…

Cheers,

Joe

p.s. As I mentioned above, there are many ways to be transparent. My dilemma was specifically related to Twitter but a tactic you can use to be transparent in multiple social media channels is to say where you work in your bio. If you say you’re the CEO of XYZ or the Marketing Assistant for ABC you will eliminate some questions when you mention your employer or one of their products.

*Sorry folks, no nepotism here. Papa Piehl does not work in the Motor Company’s Communication Department and I spent more than 16 months as a full time employee in our Corporate Affairs practice before I was offered a position to join the H-D account team.

Blogging doesn’t take that much effort, right?

Maybe it doesn’t for some people but I’m the kind of guy that will write multiple drafts and look at my post two or three different times before tossing up it here, The RedEye Wrigleyville Blog, or The Local Tourist.

In an effort to stay active and share what’s going on in my life, I’m trying to write a quick post once a week highlighting what’s going well, where I’m struggling and anything else that’s dominating my time.

Sporting sweet COMBOS blazers in Boston.

The last nine days have been a whirlwind. Earlier this year, COMBOS, the baked snack and a client, released the second annual America’s Manliest City Study – a tongue-in-cheek study that looks at hundreds of metrics to rank the top 50 cities in the US. Now a couple colleagues and I are traveling to 10 different cities and creating a video profile for the COMBOS Facebook page. This week we kicked things off by talking to folks in Chicago, Milwaukee and Boston. I don’t want give too much away about the videos and what you can expect, but end result will be a 2-3 minute video that will give you a good laugh.

Traveling to different cities and talking to locals has been a blast, but it started to make other tasks, like picking up my dry cleaning, tougher to accomplish. However, I still managed to preview / write a review of Rockit Bar and Grill’s “Rocktoberfest” menu for The Local Tourist and the Wrigleyville Blog, attend a Johnnie Walker tasting and swing by “The Cell” for a White Sox game.

What was the highlight of your week?

Cheers,

Joe

Smiles are contagious! They have the ability to transform a bad day into a tolerable day, they’re free to give out and they’re easy to give away. Plus, when you see the right person smile, it has the power to make you share a smile with someone else.

A couple weeks ago, I said the thing that makes me happy is celebrating and supporting my friends. So now it’s time to focus on what makes other people happy. Surprising a woman with flowers or a cup of coffee to a co-worker will almost always deliver a smile, but the cost of buying coffee and flowers can add up very quickly (trust me, I know).  Which is why understanding a co-worker or friend well enough to make them smile on a consistent basis is so valuable.

Do you know someone that can make you smile every time you see them?

If not, let me introduce you to Amit Patel. While it’s commonly believed that making someone smile is an art*, Amit has it down to a science.

Dr. Amit Patel (Specialty: Happiness)

Amit is the subject of this edition of “What makes You Happy?” because he radiates happiness from the moment you meet him. Monday through Friday he’s the guy walking through the hallways of Weber Shandwick with a giant smile on his face, a snap in his step and a story to tell from the weekend. It doesn’t matter if you’re an intern or a senior vice president, he’s loves to swap recipes, discuss NCAA sports (especially Purdue sports) and learn a little bit about your weekend.

Outside the office, he continues to bring energy and enthusiasm to all of the activities he does. My friends jokingly refer to my apartment as “Casa de Piehl” because people are frequently crash on my couch, but the number of guests Amit hosts in a weekend always trumps what I host in a month. His generosity extends beyond his willingness to host friends from out of town and enters daily life through his ability to be inclusive with a “the more the merrier” attitude.

Despite the fact that his accounting background places him in front of a computer and spreadsheets all day, he is a master chef and deserts are his specialty. No worries if you don’t have a sweet tooth, Amit is also perfecting a laundry list of Indian dishes.

Amit isn’t a real doctor but we call him Dr. Patel in good spirit because like a real doctor, he has a gift that helps others. For those of you looking to make more people smile, here’s a prescription to be more like Amit:

1) Smile every day and go out of your way to say hi in the morning.

2) Actively listen to what you’re friends are saying (Even if it’s in a cab at 3am on a Saturday night / Sunday morning).

3) Think about your dream job and everyday try to make it a reality.

4) Be your own man (or woman) and do the activities that make you happy. You’ll be more inclined to make other people smile, if you’re already smiling.

5) Look for reasons to celebrate.

6) Be inclusive.

*I have no scientific data to support the claim that making someone smile is an art. 🙂

Smiling Child Photo Source: Flickr

Voicemail, Sunday: “Hi Joey, it’s Mom. I just called to say hi, see how you’re doing and chat for a little bit. Give me a call when you have a chance. I love you.”

Voicemail, Wednesday: “Joey, it’s your Mother. Please give me a call when you have a minute. I need to talk to you about a couple things. I love you.”

Voicemail, Monday: “Joey. Call me. I need to talk to you. I love you.”

Text Message, Monday Night: Call your mom. – Dad.

When work gets really busy, I normally experience a series of voicemails and text messages like the example above. It’s not because I’m trying to ignore my mom or disappear from the social scene, it’s because the balance between my work and personal life is off.

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Some people preach the phrase, “If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life,” but that phrase can only apply in a world where your work is your life. Otherwise, it ignores the pressures of a personal life and the sacrifices we make to achieve success.

The people that love their jobs the most, are the people that have the best work life balance. For some people this might mean they work 50 hours in 4 days but Friday is the beginning of a three day weekend.  For others, this balance is a perfect 40 hour work week and a few vacation days throughout the year.

Since my past post, life has been a blur due to some challenging projects at work, client requests that had an extremely tight deadline and a professional development project. This also meant that Peeling Out had to take a seat on the bench until stability was restored.

Unfortunately, I don’t know if that will happen this week. Instead, I’m taking some time off and tipping the scale in the exact direction it went last week.

On Saturday, my college friends Mike and Ginny are getting married in Minneapolis and I have the pleasure of being part of the ceremony. I couldn’t be happier for these two amazing people and the future they have ahead of them. For me, this means I have even more motivation to GSD and leave the office on time Thursday to catch my flight.

Inevitably someone will ask this weekend about my job and if I like it, to which I’ll say, “I love it.”  I love my job because the people I work with are some of my close friends, the clients we have present unique challenges, and the office environment allows us opportunities, like a long weekend in Minnesota, to achieve a work / life balance.

As someone that’s always interested in exploring new ways to maintain a healthy balance, I’d love to hear what works for you. If you’re struggling to find balance, what are you doing to find it?

For the last couple months, I’ve thought a lot about what makes me happy. I have things that I “love” like beer, whiskey, baseball and a strong cup of coffee, but I struggled to find an answer to the question “What makes you happy?” (#WMYH)

A little less than two weeks ago, I started to find my answer during a phone call with Papa Piehl. Papa and Mama Piehl we’re visiting my older sister Kim in Arizona and Papa Piehl told me about the awesome things my sisters were doing that weekend. He reminded me to send a note, so I wrote a Facebook status update highlighting my amazing sisters and almost immediately the responses came in about the amazing women in my life.

The final piece of the puzzle came together at the Brewers vs. Cubs game this past Tuesday when a friend of mine started to get tired. When I asked if we should call it night, she pushed back and said “Nope, you bought the tickets. I want to leave when you want to leave.” But that didn’t make sense because I can watch baseball for hours and I know she wasn’t up for that challenge – I wanted to know what would make her happy. It was at this moment that I realized what made me happy: Supporting my friends and being their “cheerleader.”

So in the spirit of being the ultimate supporter and doing something that makes me happy, I’ve decided that every Friday I’m going to highlight one of the amazing people in my life and be their cheerleader. And since supporting my older sister Kim helped me figure this out, this one is about her.

Kimberly Piehl (Don’t call her Kimmie – she’s not a fan)

Over five years ago, Kim went on a Spring Break trip to Arizona and spent a week volunteering at Maggie’s Place – a community that provides a home for pregnant women who are alone or on the streets. As a baby fanatic, it was no surprise that about 4 month later she started a one-year volunteer position with Maggie’s Place.

“Kim just told me ‘Dad, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to leave this place.'” These were the words of Papa Piehl about nine months into Kim’s one year commitment. It speaks not only to her passion for helping others but also her dedication to the women and children of Phoenix.

To up the ante even further, she’s a full time staff member for Maggie’s Place but instead of a salary she receives a comfortable place to live and a stipend every month. It’s easy to ask “How do you live like that?” or ‘What do you do for fun?”, but consider yourself forewarned, her active schedule will make you tired just listening to her. Have you ran a marathon or triathlon in the past year? Because Kim’s probably ran 2 of them in between her skiing and hiking trips to Flagstaff. And at work her energy doesn’t stop either!

The weekend I posted a comment about my awesome sisters, Maggie’s Place was celebrating their 10 Year Anniversary and guess who coordinated it, Kim did – including a special speech by Brenda Warner, Kurt Warner’s wife. If that isn’t enough, she helps coordinate the annual Christmas Party and gift distribution that Maggie’s Place hosts for current and “alumni” families. The donation “pile” is so large for this event that in years past they filled a completely empty Scottsdale, AZ house with donations. No wonder people know her as Santa!

Not only does she do amazing things for Maggie’s Place, but she’s also a supportive sister and a loving friend. I have an opportunity to work with some amazing clients like Harley-Davidson and Combos – the awesome cheese filled snack – and in April Combos hosted a NASCAR viewing party in the Phoenix area. Even though NASCAR isn’t Kim’s forte, she still brought a throng of people almost an hour way from her home in Tempe, AZ to the party. It’s actions like this that make it tough not to love and support a girl like Kim.

If your ever in the Phoenix area, let me know because you definitely need to meet Kim!

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The same Tuesday I went to the Brewers vs. Cubs game, I decided to be a little dorky and do the “I think you have something on your shirt” joke to my friend, to which I promptly received the response, “You’re such a dad. You know that’s a dad joke right?” Hopefully someday I actually will get to be a dad, but until then I’m willing to accept the fact that every so often I’m a 42-year-old dad trapped in a 24-year-old’s body.

Whether you work in any environment where sending and receiving 200 emails a day is the norm or in a retail environment discussing the latest and greatest product, acronyms pop up everywhere. Some of them are easy to figure out (e.g. “FYI” – for your information or “IDK” – I don’t know) and other you may have to ask about but most of them have a purpose. As someone that has had the pleasure of working in both office and retail environments, I have a secret love for acronyms – especially when I get to introduce someone to a new acronyms.

Here are some of my favorite acronyms and how to use them:

ABC – Always Be Closing. People in sales should recognize this immediately because it’s what they do on a daily basis. While this isn’t used on a daily basis in my office, the spirit is thriving! Sometimes it’s coordinating an interview with a reporter and other times developing a client proposal, no matter what the task, we’re always taking one step closer to closing a “sale” and helping our clients “win.” (Also, if you haven’t seen the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, Alec Baldwin gives an amazing speech about ABC. Note, the clip involves profanity.)

FML – F-ck My Life. Everyone from the top down has had a rough day and sometimes this one slips out. The best way to approach this abbreviation is to say it, get it out of your system and turn on a GSD attitude. Remember you aren’t alone. [Ex: It’s 2 pm, I haven’t eaten since breakfast and I have another conference call in 5 minutes. FML.]

GSD – Get Sh-t Done. A GSD attitude is one of the key to success and it has a positive connotation. One of my supervisors was recently promoted to the level of vice president and I’d be surprised if his GSD attitude didn’t play a large role in the promotion. Everyday he walks into the office with a positive and upbeat tone that shouts gets conquer the day! His GSD attitude attracts other people with a similar drive and in doing so, he surrounds himself with a powerful GSD team. [Ex: It’s Monday guys, let GSD!]

OPM – Other Peoples Money. Unless you own your company, and you produce a physical product, you’re always spending somebody else’s money. If you’re low on the totem pole like myself it’s important to watch how you use your company credit card because the habits you develop early on, might be tough to break a couple years down the line – especially if someone in accounting starts to look into the $20 steak you had for lunch on a Tuesday in Cleveland. [Ex: I didn’t have to buy groceries this week because I have a client meeting in New York and I’ll be living on OPM.]

LMK – Let me know. Constant communication within a team is crucial and sometimes a friendly reminder to keep each other in the loop is helpful. [Ex: LMK your schedule for this week when we meet later today.]

PTO – Paid Time Off. I hope you don’t need me to explain why this is so valuable.


Do you have any helpful acronyms that you use at work?

A highlight of my week is reading the Harvard Business Review’s email newsletter (subscribe) and scanning the articles for insight that will take me to the next level and hopefully prepare me to someday write an article for the newsletter. Not all of the articles apply to PR or young professionals but I always feel a little smarter for reading them.

One of the blog posts that caught my attention last week was “10 Reasons to Stop Apologizing for Your Online Life” by Alexandra Samuel. Alexandra wrote about the separation people create between their “online lives” and their “offline lives” and how they consciously make the decision to “to engage in online interaction as if it were fundamentally different from offline conversation.”

As the first college generation to experience to Facebook, my friends and I loved the separation of our online lives and offline personalities. Online we could share the photos we wouldn’t show our parents, make comments on a friend’s wall that we would never say in public and it was worry free because Facebook was an exclusive group. But shortly after college, Weber Shandwick (my employer) changed my opinion by introducing me to the INLINE philosophy: Communication isn’t online or offline, it’s INLINE.

The key behind this philosophy is that a company or brand’s interaction with consumers needs to be seamless with no real distinction between the communication channels. James Warren, Weber Shandwick’s Chief Digital Strategist, had an opportunity to explain the company’s INLINE communications research and the evolution of consumer interaction with PRWeek and the result is a quick video packed with info.

Alexandra’s post offers 10 ways our Internet experience will transform by acknowledging our online lives as real. To help make this transition simple, here are a few ideas for a seamless life:

  • Share your Facebook photos with your friends. Not too many people block all of their photos but if you know someone that does, encourage them to unblock their photos. Photos show us who you are, your passions and who’s important to you. So instead of blocking out that part of your life, save a copy of the photos you think are funny but inappropiate and then detag them.
  • Limit your use of the phrase “In Real Life” (IRL). This phrase needs to go away for two reasons: 1) It implies that their is a difference between your online personality and your offline personality. 2) When I hear this phrase I think of people that play the online game World of Warcraft and their desire to create a separate online life. This seems kind of weird to me.
  • Call your Facebook friends on their birthday. Sending a Facebook note is great but who doesn’t love a phone call on their birthday. Use Facebook birthday reminders as a chance to be that awesome friend who calls instead of sending a generic happy birthday note. Its easier said than done, but try to make one b-day phone call a month.
  • Meet face to face with the people you know online.* It can be one on one over coffee or in a large group setting like a tweet up or a house party hosted by a mutual friend. By connecting face to face, you’ll feel more comfortable talking to the person online and you’ll open the possibility of expanding your network to include their friends. (Below is a photo from the Redeye Tweet up in July. L-R: @jasonmuelver, @ernestwilkins, @felska, and myself – @joepiehl.)

Source: Chris Vaughn (Follow him – he’s awesome)

  • Try Foursquare. As a Foursquare addict it’s easy for me to recommend the location-based game but its one of the simplest ways of telling your friends what you’re doing without having to send a mass text message. The ultimate idea behind Foursquare is that it allows you to connect with your friends if you’re both in the same area.

*It was really tough to not use the phrase “In Real Life.”

[I’m still trying to fix the font size… hopefully by next Monday I’ll have it figured out.]