with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

Listen on

In this episode we meet Ram Castillo.

Ram is an award-winning Design Director, Author, Blogger, top-ranking Podcaster and international Speaker.

For 13+ years he’s been working for global agencies including Ogilvy & Mather, DDB, JWT and McCann Worldgroup on clients such as Audi, McDonald’s, Qantas, Coca-Cola, Telstra, Google and The Louis Vuitton Group.

He is the author of two best selling books and has been featured in HOW magazine, Herman Miller, deFrost*, AIGA.org and Apple.

Since 2012, he’s been providing expert advice for emerging designers and creatives to be employed, and those that are established – to reach their next level, via GiantThinkers.com and has recently launched Unrushed Experiences.

In this episode we talk about:

  • How creatives are different and what you need to do to motivate them and make them maximally effective
  • How to accelerate your career as a creative or not
  • Dreaming Big
  • Getting Mentors


You can connect with Ram on Instagram here.

Via GiantThinkers.com or UnrushedExeriences.com


She just put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Look, whatever you want to do, just remember to dream big. Dream really, really big.”
I remember going back from my first USA speaking tour, when I launched my first book, How To Get a Job as a Designer. When I got back, the first thing she said to me … and I was gone for three months … And she hadn't seen me. So the folks came and greeted me at the airport. But she said, “how does it feel? How does it feel climbing up that mountain?” And I said, “feels pretty good, Mum.” And she said, “Well, make sure you come back down and share to everyone what you found.”

This the best way in; to get your foot in the door, and the principle I've really applied is in order to take a forward step sometimes you really need to take a side step. And I've been taking many side steps.

Patience. In a world where it can feel like we're not getting anywhere. I have been embedded, through my parents, that belief that you should really take your time and enjoy what it is you need to learn at this moment. Someone once told me that although it might be a painful experience … or maybe painful might be a bit extreme of a word … but you want something so bad. One of my mentor's once told me that maybe you're not moving forward because you've not learnt a lesson you're meant to learn yet. And that's something that's really stuck by me; enjoying what you really need to learn, even if it's uncomfortable, even if it makes you sort of squeamish or gives you anxiety, because … The way my Mum put it was, look at all the great masterpieces in the world. They were all carved from some block of stone or solid nothingness. And could you imagine if we are that thing. Could you imagine how painful those chips are? Being carved into masterpieces? We're getting chipped away.

And I know that might seem very broad strokes, top-line but it is really these guiding principles that I've been able to really adopt and embrace. On a hyper-practical level, I just work my arse off, mate. I really, really do.

I think when I say work hard, I mean, like, when you feel … it's the old Schwarzenegger thing, isn't it? It's like Pumping Iron, where he said, when you think you've got nothing left in the tank, it's the extra three reps that actually get you from good to great. Or average to champion.

I also value relationships, and I think that has grown into equity in itself.

Education, so it's important because some people are like, “do I need a Bachelor's degree?” Well, from my experience in design specifically … but again, transferrable principles … research what is the bare minimum that you need. What is the bare minimum that you need, from an education credibility point of view, that will allow you to work in that trade.

And so many people need to really remove themselves from this whole, “university is the only way,” thing because it's not.


Now I really push myself to learn social dynamics and social interaction and really through design … human centred design … that technology is reverse engineering human behaviour and outcomes whether it's in the commercial space or not. That for me I've also tried to apply to myself.

Ram Castillo: In knowing more about people, which in turn as helped be become, hopefully, a better leader, and a better communicator, and a better creative in that we're not ever meant to assume, we're meant to absorb. We're meant to come up with our hypothesis that is really informed … not just by data …but qualitative data as well, not just quantitative data I mean.


I interviewed the likes of Kelly Slater, 11 times world surf champion, exactly that … I slid into his Instagram DM's. But could you imagine, even if they say no, there's going to be someone who's going to answer on some platform available, where that person's active. And if you're feeling stuck, or you really are stuck, you don't have to go at it alone. You can scope, whether it's locally or globally, someone, or a few people, who can give you a nudge into helping you see the blind spots and kind of the guesswork to succeed faster.

Russell James. He is the main photographer for Victoria's Secret. He is also a fellow Aussie, and one thing he shared with me was … we spoke at a conference together in Margaret River and we've since been quite good friends … and he said, “don't let the highs take you too high. And don't let the lows take you too low.”

Debbie Millman. She's very iconic in the design world. She actually has had the first ever design podcast in the world, 12 years ago now or more, fifteen maybe. She's based in New York and she runs the Masters of Design Programme at the New York, or is it the Sydney Visual Arts Design School there. And she said the longer it takes, the longer it will last and the more you'll be prepared for the success, when it comes. So I'll say that again. She said that the longer it takes, the longer it will last and the more you'll be prepared for the success, when it comes.

I find that we often dream big and we want so many things for ourself. But then there's this five second window, where logic kicks in, and rationale kicks in. And then it goes, “Nah!” And if you miss that window, and you don't act on that window, so much of what your heart is screaming for, won't ever come into fruition. But the long and the short of it is, we live in a world where you can be whatever the hell you want to be, and you don't need permission from anybody at all. You just need to give things a go and understand, based on these things that I've said, that I've shared from my mentors, it allows you to just a, back yourself. But also, if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out and that's okay. That's okay.


I think one of the biggest challenges is balancing creativity with a business mind. Because also, part two, is what kind of creativity are we talking about? Some, and I've quickly had to learn this myself you know, dreaming me big into thinking I would be designing to change the world. Well, the reality is, commercially, much of the time, 90% of the work you'll be doing is probably … if you're a designer anyway, or in the field of any type of marketing or communications … is going to likely be for either finance, automotive, insurance, something that you're not entirely passionate about.

The main thing, for me, has been understanding … Starting from the top, where we have to look through the lens of human needs. So, no matter if you're a leader in the creative field or not, everyone … all your employees, at some version … would like some recognition, acknowledgement, feeling of community, a sense of belonging.

So understanding that, as a top-line thing, is important because it leads to the next thing, which I strongly advise, and it's the best way to motivates people; and it's to find what already motivates them. Hugely important because finding the right people for the right job … or the right task … often, I've seen, doesn't align.

So many leaders in the creative field, they might find that okay, this person is great on paper and then, on the interview, failed to ask the question, “what really lights you up?” What really motivates you and is it okay that you will be doing … and let's say doesn't. Let's say there's a disconnect with the person's answer; and putting it out there, good old radical candour style … you won't be doing that here. Like, what else motivates you? Do you …just say it … do you just need this for the money? Do you just need this for experience? To get something under your resume?

It's just so important to find the real motivations in people, because if you try to sugarcoat it and say “yeah, yeah, we're highly creative here,” and you don't give that person the opportunity, the briefs and the jobs and the projects are actually not that bloody creative. Or worse, you're giving junior work to a senior; doing bloody roll out work that is not stimulating for this creative person, that's a problem.

But I always encourage you to have projects also on the side. Or explore, whether it's going on your own night photography group, or you're building something from wood because you always wanted to and did a woodwork shop class. Or literally pick up your paintbrushes again and paint just like you did when you were a kid. I mean, all of these things I should probably do, to be honest.

But yeah, it is just distinguishing the two, because, we're talking off air a bit, Greg, but you know, the problems that a lot of leadership, certain leaders might have with creatives, is that their brain is actually wired to pushing boundaries and imagining a world that doesn't exist yet.

So, you're conflicting any time that you restrain a creative, they're actually going, “fuck that. I'm not going to do that.” Like you're limiting what's possible.

And so it's important to give them the space to express their idea, to listen intently, help them feel that they've been heard. But also influence the outcome, if it's not to their liking, by informing them that here are the circumstances that are not allowing us to proceed with that type of idea. It's a great idea. However, dot, dot, dot.


Unrushed Experiences. As you said, it's a premium degustation of the senses, for overworked professionals to undo the damage of busy.
Those that feel they may be drowning in speed, and starving for stillness. It is literally a seven-course degustation menu for the next one that's coming up on the 11th of May, here in Sydney, at renowned restaurant Number One Bench Street by Mike. He's crafted the seven-course degustation meal with wine and beverages and live music performers from a violin and cello duo who played for Sydney's Symphony Orchestra and Australian Orchestra to Roshani Priddis, who's been on Idol and X-Factor. James Blunt calls her a deep, dark and soulful songwriter. To Q and A's with special guests


Really simply, I'd say to lead with generosity and to follow with care. That's it.