Tetrify your life
By stacking the oddly shaped interests in your life
👋 Good morning from Los Angeles! I'm Nate Kadlac, and this is Plan Your Next—a Sunday newsletter that connects design, creativity, and how you prepare for your next thing.
💡 What’s new?
🕹️ Officially launched Hey, Good Game with a stellar domain. We’re a team of four who are inspired by how impactful games can be—especially brainy games. We’re also fans of Jane McGonigal and how games can be used for good. If you know of anyone in this space, I’d love an intro.
Tetrify your choices
My nine-year-old butt sat on a stretch of plush, brown-speckled carpeted tufts only the late 80s could manufacture. Cross-legged in front of a large built-in TV, I punched my thumbs into the Nintendo controller I gripped in my hands, watching the oddly shaped squares called tetrominoes fall down the TV into layers.
Alexey Pajitnov was 29 when he created Tetris. He was inspired by a childhood game that consisted of five squares of equal size forming different shapes. He originally designed the game with brackets because his computer lacked a graphics card.
Like most people, I fell in love with the simplicity and gameplay of Tetris. It captivated me for hours at a time.
But while Tetris is one of the most popular games in video game history, it’s a game where you’re destined to lose.
It’s popular not because you will lose, but because of its infinite gameplay.
Jane McGonigal, author of "Reality is Broken," writes that all games have four distinct rules:
Rules of play
A feedback system
A voluntary participation
You don’t need competition or a winner to define a game. The state of being in flow is more addicting than ending a game by winning.
James Carse, author of Finite and Infinite Games defines these two types of games as “A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.”
Successful games encourage you to play more.
If you can have as much fun playing games you can’t win, what would your life look if you made choices based on how much energy and enjoyment they bring you?
Life gives you some built-in structures to live by, but they’re not mandatory.
The bumper lanes that offer on-ramps to achieve skills—like a traditional education or a career path—have no guaranteed outcomes.
What they do give you is a defined path to walk, with clear milestones and an estimated time of completion. Their outcomes are focused on things like graduation or promotion, but that usually leads to a new set of challenges.
It’s like if you find yourself stuck at a job for five or more years, unable to escape. Employers can use short-term gamification to their advantage, offering you another small promotion or raise, giving you just enough of a carrot to stick it out another year or two.
But take a moment to look back instead of forward, and think about how you have played the game so far, and what’s likely to change going forward. Don’t get stuck with tunnel vision and forget to play the infinite game with your decisions.
It’s extremely difficult to pivot and change your direction after a decade of making these finite decisions, as you enter your mid-30s or 40s.
Tetris like gameplay
If you approach life like a Tetris game, it might seem unclear how random life choices float down from the top of the screen.
Imagine each shape representing a choice or a skill attained.
How do these choices all stack and fit together? What if this skill only overlaps four of the squares instead of five?
This feeling is uncomfortable and stressful. Income from these detached skills isn’t clear yet, and you don’t know if you’re wasting your time illustrating your blog images in your spare time when you can make much more money designing user interfaces. (Oh hey, that’s me.)
But this acquisition of skills and the particular order of stacking them is completely unique to you. You can’t know the outcome yet, and it may not seem clear until you have some pieces to work with.
And this is often the case with the people you admire or look up to. Almost every one of my mentors (even the ones that don’t know me) has not followed a path that looks like anything traditional.
People I’m inspired by like Ryan Holiday went from college dropout at 19 to work with Tucker Max, then later worked with author Robert Greene, then led marketing at American Apparel, and now has authored over 10 books, writes a daily blog, and lives on a ranch in Texas. Oh, and he also runs a bookstore.
When I left my last job in 2021, I felt like I was on a linear route, without a clear direction. It’s why I named this newsletter, Plan Your Next, because I wasn’t sure what my next thing might be.
Now, I’m surrounded by a number of Tetronimoes, unsure how they’re all going to fit together. But in the past 18 months, the following shapes have started to find their place in my life, even if they seemingly started out of nowhere.
A few recent Tetris examples from my own life:
This newsletter was given a new life after I took Write of Passage in 2020 and combined my love for design with writing.
A consistent pursuit of becoming a better writer led me to have design conversations with creators and solopreneurs. Those conversations gave me the spark to start teaching design and building Approachable Design into something I couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago.
I never considered myself an artist, but I embraced drawing and started to illustrate each of my newsletter and blog articles, leading to a collaboration with a friend of mine to teach other writers how to draw. That pursuit has now turned into me being asked to illustrate an upcoming book.
Teaching Figma Thinkers by using Figma every day and collaborating with a friend to teach others how to think visually.
Fresh Prompts was born out of an interest and skill growth in SEO and marketing automation. This idea is also an extension of my drawing course, except we're helping people stay inspired to draw every day using AI.
Hey, Good Game is an extension of my own product background, combined with building communities, growing an email list, and building extremely fun and brainy games that hopefully Jane McGonigal would be proud of.
“Finite players play within boundaries; infinite players play with boundaries.”—James Carse
This all might seem like a badly played game of Tetris, but if you look back, each shape continues to find its place as you continue to stack each shape
⚡️ Your next creative hit
👨💻 The I ❤️NYC redesign completely flopped, and they removed all of the personality Milton Glaser gave it.
👓 Vox on why so many people need glasses. Also, Vox videos are such a great resource for data visualization inspiration.
🕹️ The story of how Tetris came to be licensed is almost unbelievable. The history of how Tetris came to be is Tetris just launched on Apple TV+.