Deconstructing your path

Plan Your Next #82

  
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👋 Good morning from Los Angeles! I'm Nate Kadlac, and this is #82 of Plan Your Next. A Sunday newsletter that connects design, creativity, and how you prepare for your next thing.


Deconstructing to find your path

On Thursday, I had a short meeting with 3 other designers to talk about design systems for a client we're all working for in some capacity. It turns out, two of the three experienced designers never had any formal training in design—like me—seemingly building their career arc through the non-t

raditional route of being self-taught. What captured my attention about this conversation was how casual it was shared, as if sharing a piece of generic life advice like, "One man’s trash is another man’s treasure."

Early in my career, I was careful never to describe myself as being self-taught, thinking that it would reveal me as somewhat "less" of a designer. Certain companies would only hire those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, and so the traditional path set an artificial bar for who they considered worthy.

These constraints forced me down a different path altogether, focusing on building generalist skills requiring me to pitch, sell, prototype, design, and code. It didn’t mean I was stellar at any of these steps, but it made me appreciate the needs of a business very early on.

Looking back, it’s easy to see why I took the path that I did, based on what was laid out in front of me. But there’s a lesson in deconstructing a career. You get to follow the branches of decisions spanning out in seemingly random directions, seeing how they all connect to the present moment.

Annie Duke, the author of Thinking in Bets, describes where we are now as the sum of the bets we have placed on ourselves.

Whenever I’m asked about finding an alternative path, I usually recommend researching someone that inspires you, then working backward throughout their career. Deconstructing an outcome is a fun way to peel back the layers of a career.

Visa recently applied this to Marie Kondo’s career, noticing some early indications that she was onto something special in her early twenties. As he points out, there were indications of her obsessing over organization as a child.

This process is special because it starts to unearth the imperfection of building careers, companies, and more.

I mistakenly thought my own path was unique—while not vocalizing it—in being self-taught. But, even the most linear-looking path is filled with potholes that might surprise you.


⚡️ Two creative hits for next week

💦 Visualizing the flow of water
Sometimes you’re told a fact as a kid, but until you see a visual representation of it, it doesn’t really connect. I grew up near the Mississippi, but this map reveals how much of the watershed in the US flows through Louisiana still blows my mind.

🎨 If you’re sick of hearing about NFTs, you might be playing the game, “earmuffs” with yourself for the next decade. This fascinating thread by 6529—an anonymous account—attempts to outline why JPGs represent something much larger than digital art, and how off-chain governance is where we could be headed if it’s successful.


👋 See you next Sunday

If you’ve forgotten who I am, here’s a little bit about me. As always, my calendar is open to chat about your next adventure, crazy idea, or if you’re feeling creatively stuck.

Have a great week,

p.s. If you enjoyed this letter, would you please let me know by tapping on the heart below?