Despite all my rage, I am still just a soft and gooey ego in a cage
Plan Your Next #139
👋 Good morning from Los Angeles! I'm Nate Kadlac, and this is #139 of Plan Your Next. A Sunday newsletter that connects design, creativity, and how you prepare for your next thing.
💡 What’s new? A lot!
❤️ I’ve never had more responses to a newsletter than last week. Thanks to everyone who wrote in. And if you’re stuck, let’s find time to chat. (link in footer)
✨ I updated my home page and finally added a Now page (h/t Derek Sivers). I’m pretty excited to deviate even more away from my self-limiting identity as a designer. (A new secret project is revealed there.)
👀 A logo for the newsletter? I couldn’t continue looking at my logo set in ALL CAPS LORA anymore. Make it yours! (If you make one for yourself, please use a transparent background, so it doesn’t look like a piece of lousy clip art in our emails. We have standards.)
🔔 Close to launching a new AI product focused on drawing prompts. If you have ever used prompts to spur creativity, I’d love to chat! (Please reply and let me know.)
How to get unstuck and stop worrying about what everyone thinks about you
The first online course I took was in the fall of 2016. I lived in a studio apartment just a block south of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The pre-recorded course was taught by Ramit Sethi, called Zero to Launch.
I completed the promise of the first half by doing zero with it.
At one point during the course, the enthusiastic pre-recorded Ramit asked me to write down my hobbies, interests, and skills on a slice of paper. He told me to do this with an actual pencil, to make the experience hit home.
The point was to find an intersection of interests I could turn into a business or a course. It was the 2016 version of the Personal Monopoly.
The thought of teaching something I knew scared the hell out of me—and even though I hadn’t finished the video course—I already felt like a fraud for thinking I was someone who could teach others. Maybe it was because I still held University professors on a pedestal even though I quit college and pursued a different path.
I scribbled down a bunch of interests while admitting to myself I was never going to finish this course, and I was foolish for thinking I ever had the confidence to be the type of person who could change.
Taking the scenic route
Years later (and about six months ago) my writing friendcame to town, and we quickly made plans to hike Griffith Park here in Los Angeles. Hiking in LA is my go-to activity when friends come to town.
Salman and I had never met in person, although we had fumbled our way virtually through a couple of sessions on showing other writers how we use Procreate in our writing process.
While we walked around the Griffith Observatory, we challenged ourselves to collaborate on a project together, and teaching a drawing workshop came up.
Within a few weeks, we hosted a live YouTube workshop and started to build an email list that would eventually lead to a course we successfully launched two weeks ago. It was all very pragmatic, with neither of us letting ego or pride hold us back.
In fact, many of our conversations were about how to put out something slightly embarrassing just to have the chance to work together on a project.
What changed between these two versions of myself?
How did I grow from the version of someone who couldn’t finish Ramit’s course and the version of me who leaped at the chance to build something (in public!) with Salman?
I had to escape my bubble.
It’s not a job that defines you, but how people identify you
I’m a self-taught designer, so there’s a lot of built-in psychological baggage screaming, “I’m good! I’m not a fraud! Tell me I’m not a fraud!”
What held me back for many years, was ultimately fulfilling my goal—becoming a damn good designer—to the reinforcing nature of how people identify you.
This cycle is difficult to escape since your identity is like a handprint in a decades-old cemented sidewalk.
How often does this happen in the industry you work in? How much does the external perception cement your inability to make a change?
What’s the opportunity cost of not being able to make that change?
Intellectually, I knew other people don’t really care, but without external evidence of acknowledging that change, it’s just a potential idea lodged in your head.
Labeling myself a writer took a couple of years of publishing every week, which felt like cutting against the grain of hardwood with a butter knife. It wasn’t until recently—after enough evidence of external acceptance—did I have any courage to apply that label.
But eventually, courage came with force. I started to meet and get introduced to people who weren’t designers. I found my same fears parallelling theirs, but I realized this was all made up. We were fooling ourselves, and downplaying our strengths.
The more writing groups I joined, the more brunches with strangers I hosted, the more creative calls I held, the more risks I took publicly, the more 2016 Nate was becoming a distant memory.
I’m forever changed, but it took cutting off enough knots in my personality that I don’t feel limited to being “just a designer.”
I’m not where I want to be, but I’m more fearless to fuck up for the right reasons.
I’m not building or seeking the approval of designers anymore.
Who shouldn’t your ego be fearing?
p.s. I’m coming for the confidence of pre-recorded Ramit.
⚡️ Creative hits for you to check out next
📣 “Don’t talk about the things you own, talk about the things you do.” —Jesse Pujji (h/t)
While I teach the fundamentals of typography, one of the best resources to learn the inside-outs of typography is the Flawless Typography Checklist by Jeremiah Shoaf. Right now you can save $100 on his massive bundle of resources.
🍸 The most honest alcoholic beverage branding
Well, you can’t say they didn’t warn you.