From knives to kits: find abundance from simplicity

Plan Your Next #80

👋 Good morning from Los Angeles! I'm Nate Kadlac, and this is #80 of Plan Your Next. A Sunday newsletter that connects design, creativity, and how you prepare for your next thing.


I’m not sure what compelled me to read Anthony Bourdain’s, “Kitchen Confidential” in 2005. The best-seller was being made into a TV series at the time, so I’m sure I just heard about it through the airwaves that left imprints on the walls of my tiny apartment in Uptown, Minneapolis.

There are few books that impacted me like this one. Like mimicking the jump kicks after watching a Kung-Fu movie as a kid, Anthony gave you the keys to mimic how a chef thinks in the restaurant world.

Knowing when and what to order on a particular day of the week felt like a superpower.

But beyond this institutional knowledge, Anthony hand-delivered through his writing, what stuck with me was how he advocated for simple choices that had an outsized impact. Hidden beneath this simplicity was the Pareto Principle, something Tim Ferriss would teach me a couple of years later.

Because of this book—and for over 10 years now—I’ve owned a single knife for cooking. It’s an 8” chef’s knife; sans dimples. It all started from this paragraph in a chapter titled, “How to Cook like the Pros.”

“You need, for God's sake, a decent chefs knife. No con foisted on the general public is so atrocious, so wrongheaded, or so widely believed as the one that tells you you need a full set of specialized cutlery in various sizes. I wish sometimes I could go through the kitchens of amateur cooks everywhere just throwing knives out from their drawers — all those medium-size 'utility' knives, those useless serrated things you see advertised on TV, all that hard-to-sharpen stainless-steel garbage, those ineptly designed slicers — not one of the damn things could cut a tomato. Please believe me, here's all you will ever need in the knife department: ONE good chef's knife, as large as is comfortable for your hand.”—Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

A single item can have an outsized impact.

Moving After discovering a DIY tutorial to make my own bookshelf, I’ve been lugging around this bookshelf made from pipe fittings for the past 7 years. This simple pile of plumping pieces molds itself perfectly into any space, propping up the wisdom of hundreds of great authors.

Its simplicity showcases how useful a single item can be.

And in design, I teach how building a design kit can have an outsized impact on showcasing your best self. A simple palette of colors, typefaces, and shapes can define your visual aesthetic for years to come. The individual pieces can be remixed, reorganized, and reshaped into a timeless style that evolves over time.

A design kit is like owning a single 8” chef’s knife, carrying an impact greater than itself the more it’s used. It builds trust over time, like a sacred bond between friends not easily destroyed.

Using it in unexpected ways removes the need for more tools. Like using my chef’s knife for smashing garlic cloves, or a design kit for your LinkedIn banner. Seems unnecessary, but useful.


⚡️ Two creative hits for next week

👨‍💻 GT Ultra is a variable typeface I briefly considered buying for my own purposes. The full family typeface transforms between a sans-serif and a heavy serif, and the microsite is incredibly clever.

🎨 Everyone knows I love Figma, and here’s a quick tweetstorm to get up to speed. #4 is a great way to save your style and the first step to creating your own design kit.


👋 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?