Parallel Design Group Parallel Design Group

Thought Leadership

"I can't believe I get to do this."

I had the privilege to sit down with CreativeMornings Director & Host Ryan Hunley. If you know Ryan, you know that he has a captivating spirit and thinks differently than most - so I was soaking in all of his unique and creative energy.

After we talked about the appropriate age for kids to have cell phones, we spent our time together talking about creativity - one of his favorite topics. Here's what he has to say about creativity and other things that will spark your interest and hopefully allow you to walk away – challenged to think differently.


Adrienne: Tell us about a few things that light your soul on fire.

Ryan: Helping people tell stories that need to be told. At CreativeMornings - we always aim to put someone on the stage who has something to say - but wouldn't always get the opportunity to say it.

AE: What is inspiring to you?

RH: People who continue to do the right thing in the face of adversity. From Ericka Sanders to Graham Brown to Marc Williams and many others I have had the pleasure of sharing space with.

AE: Who are you inspired by?

RH: I’m inspired by my wife. Her steadfastness, her passion, her commitment. Every day, wake up grateful to share a home with that woman. I am inspired by kids – they don’t care about what happened yesterday – they don’t care about what is happening tomorrow. They care about now. That inspires me all the time – a kid is so present. Why can’t we be like that?

AE: Because we are easily distracted. Speaking of that – would you put yourself in a box for your personality/the way you are wired? Are you type A?

RH: I can be. I'm complicated. I can be super extroverted and commanding at CreativeMornings, but then need time alone to decompress.

AE: What's something that is unique about you?

RH: I love to focus on and experience other peoples’ energy – I love witnessing people who have an internal sense of self-worth. I love witnessing people with the ability to influence change in the world.

AE: Let's pretend we are back in elementary school. Talk to us about your "fun fact".

RH: I have scars on my face from an unfortunate incident with a house cat as a baby. I told my kids it was from a tiger though so let's keep the truth between us.

AE: That must mean you don't like cats.

RH: I'm not a huge animal person but mostly because we live in such a small space.

AE: Okay, well obviously you've grown up a bit since elementary school. So what's your "fun fact" today?

RH: I've been dating my wife since I was 15 - got married in 2006. Been with her my whole teenage and adult life pretty much.


AE: Definitely a fun fact. Let's talk CreativeMornings. Can you share how you became involved?

RH: CreativeMornings exists all over the world. The Indy chapter started 5 years in November so we are coming up on our 5-year birthday.

RH: Rita was the original host and moved to San Francisco & she handed it off to Brittany Mason. I was around but not necessarily leading the efforts. I worked at the SpeakEasy and when Brittany Mason took over for Rita, she approached me. I thought she was going to ask me to speak at CreativeMornings and instead asked, "Do you think your wife would be interested in speaking?" Obviously my wife is amazing and she did an amazing job. But it was still pretty funny.

AE: Eventually, you followed your wife and you yourself were a speaker for Creative Mornings. What was on your mind to share with those that attended?

RH: I talked about empathy, not what folks expected me to cover.

AE: Why was Empathy the topic? Why are you so passionate about it?

RH: I grew up in a single parent household. Until high school, I didn't have much community. In high school, I actually found my wife and family through football and journalism class. I was surrounded by people much different than me - and I believe that proximity to different experience leads to shared understanding and empathy.

AE: What is one thing that is super important to you?

RH: I believe there is some responsibility for us to be willing to be uncomfortable. Nothing grows or improves when we become complacent or too comfortable.


AE: Why do you think people naturally tell others "I'm not creative"?

RH: I think most people misunderstand what creativity is. They think its some skill that you are born with or not. Creativity is a discipline, not a skill. It’s a way of thinking/problem-solving, etc. Some people thinks it manifests itself in a tangible way - but the concept of creativity is accessible to anybody.

AE: How do you drive this message home with Creative Mornings?

RH: We do that by shining light on not just artists - others that aren't typically seen as creatives. Others that have another identity than explicitly “a creative”. Sure you will see artists and poets, but you will also see people who kill it in Education, Engineering, etc.


AE: What are your thoughts on identity?

RH: We so unhealthily tie our identity to what we do for work. We are way more than what we produce. In the Midwest, we tend to ask someone right away when meeting them, "What do you do?"

AE: So true. How do we ask better questions? Do you have any examples?

RH: Ask them "What's your story?" or "What keeps you busy?" Stole that from my wife btw.


AE: For those who may be reading this blog post and think "I'm not creative," what would you say to challenge them?

RH: First of all - yes you are, undeniably. Creativity is not an inherent skill that people have or don’t have. It's a discipline and it’s a wave you tap into. It’s not something that you are born with or not born with. Second come to CreativeMornings and find some folks a lot more like you than you might think.

AE: What is your advice for all humans as it relates to owning their own creative process.

RH: Be careful not to over-educate yourself on process. We are exposed to so much information, we are constantly talking to peers, listening to podcasts, etc. By listening to all the noise, we are too closely adhere to what works for them instead of what works for us.

AE: As a creator, a creative and someone who inspires us to be creative, give us a few tips for creating.

RH: Get into your own flow. Stop listening to so much advice - including mine. Get your hands dirty & try it out.

AE: Knowing that we are over-saturated with so much information, I still wanna know -- what books, podcasts, artists, influencers, etc. would you recommend to our followers?


· Book - The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry. This is about letting your mind wander. Some of the best ideas come to us when we are bored.

· Advice - Get outside of your own industry. Talk to people that are doing things way differently than you are. Also- Go to a meeting - take it all in and listen/ You don’t have to be the leader all the time, shut up and listen.