How to get a Standing Ovation

Isabella Grandic
Jul 25, 2019 · 14 min read

I’m beyond grateful for my experience at Microsoft Ready in Las Vegas. I was just on a flight to Paris, and got inspired by the guy a few seats away from me to write about my time in Vegas.

I hope you’ll be able to learn from my experiences!

The guy a few seats from me on my plane is eating what seems to be a really really good chocolate bar. I have never seen someone so passionately munch on an O’Henry. I don’t know this guy’s story, but I feel like this chocolate bar is the best thing that’s happened to him this week. Maybe month. This is a problem; he’s passionate about a sugar cane contraption that’s deteriorating his organs.

Just like most teenagers apparently, he’s caught up in all the wrong things. I mean… out of all chocolate bars… O’Henry?!

Young people have a lot of passion, but if they don’t have good things to care about, they’ll use it on O’henrys. Everyone cares about something, but, most people only have shitty things to care about.

Growing up, people always told me that I was way too over my head with my desires.

As a 14-year-old, that went through 1 year of fake friendships, classes that made my head hurt of boredom and frankly just terrible teenagers, I was not about to have 3 more years of that shenanigans — I had 0 patience to sit through high school.

No patience meant lots of bias to action: when I saw the opportunity to start working on things that mattered, I drove right in. All through a program called The Knowledge Society (TKS).

I went from being a bored 14-almost 15-year-old … to getting standing ovations at the T-mobile arena, having Olivia Fox Cabane as a *personal* mentor (among many more incredible people that believe in me), Derek Sivers agreeing to my calls, saying: “I say no to EVERYONE these days, but you, you’re different. Read your blog; your public thoughts are like my private ones”.

TL;DR: I had no patience to sit through high school, and TKS helped me to become passionate about solving big problems & making an impact. It brought me out of my slump.

HOwEveR, there are probably so many young people that had/have big exciting dreams (much like me), but they’re trapped in a classroom somewhere with their intellect, curiosity, and passion being wasted.

I think passion shouldn’t be used on chocolate, and my story is proof of why young people should start caring about important problems.

I’m sharing my stories from the past week, in hopes that someone will learn something, and maybe it’ll trigger their bias-to-action.

I’ll talk magic shows, VIP concerts, CEOs, and solving big problems. I hope your O’henrys are ready to be snacked on without passion.

I really hope O’henry dude doesn’t peer over my shoulders and read this… that would be awkward.

The Backstory

TL;DR: I just had one of the best weeks of my life, in Vegas.

It was all thanks to Microsoft, and their #MSREADY conference (aka the biggest Microsoft event of the year aka #Isabella was freaking her shiz).

Outside of the *amazing* conference, we saw a magic show, got to be VIPs for a Queen concert, zip-lined across Downtown LV, hung out with llamas and even fulfilled every nerdy 15 year old’s dream of chatting with Satya Nadella. I’m still breathing heavily and in shock from that.

The chit-chat agenda:

3 main takeaways from this experience:

1. Earn everything, and run your life
2. How you train is how you perform
3. I need to Optimize for the future by becoming a contrarian with cognizance [also known as ways I was un-optimal and how I’m becoming a boss unicorn 🦄]


I wanted to throw in a section about the traits I have that have really propelled my journey, and how they might be holding other people back. Because the point of this is to share experiences, stories, and learnings; here’s what really worked.
1. Boss Mentality
2. Anti-procrastination
3. Excitement to be alive [being high-energy]

Stories & Moments

Who doesn’t love a good story? Pop-out your popcorn because it’s about to be bedtime storytime 😎 (pun was actually not intended, but I guess I’m just naturally a poet) 😎 (this emoji is so useful) .
1. The Standing Ovation
2. Satya Nadella
3. Stratosphere rollercoaster

Isabella in Vegas: a production brought to you by, chocolate guy inspiring the beginning, crying baby for keeping me awake during this flight, Microsoft for hosting (and feeding me like a KING, I was eating two-dollar sign rated foods on yelp all week… it was INSANE), TKS for enabling my potential, and my parents for… you know.

Part 1: The Takeaways

Learning point #☝️: Be the CEO of your own damn life

There is a big difference from being #1 and being #2. 2 has infinitely more people to rely on than number 1.

In Vegas, I was number 2. If I messed up, it always felt like there was someone else to rely on. I need to remove myself from this mindset.

Luckily, I spent time with people who experimented a lot with low-downside (mostly no downside) things. Stuff like asking to be upgraded on a plane, or activating a conversation with a stranger. They were number 1.

These activations, low impact “asks” made the most captivating stories. For example, we got into the Queen concert via the VIP entrance… just because someone was able to figure out the secret password… by asking the right people, and I happened to be in the car. This is an example where other people asked the right questions, and it just benefited me. Although the concert was fun & so where the other whacky adventures, I knew I had to spend more time in the driver’s seat.

By the end of our trip, I started to get the hang of the whole “take activations into your own hands.” My friend Hannah, who was also in Vegas, and I became friends with a stranger while zipping across Las Vegas. It’s a fun story for another time. But the meta here is to take life into your own hands and make exciting stuff happen. You can’t live relying on other people; you should hustle & activate.

Learning point #🤘: Your habits matter

I’m not blaming anyone, but last week I really pigged out. My food choices were not pretty. Let’s just say I had one too many shake-shack chocolate milkshakes…

The not fantastic diet in conjunction with weird teenager hormonal stuff isn’t not going well for my skin, lesson learned.

I ignored my health.

There were chocolate fountains… come on 🤓

But this is pretty stupid. Health isn’t something you take a week off of. Just like google can’t decide to go on a vacation. This was a lack of discipline on my end. I was self rationalizing that because I was on “vacation,” I could take a break on some of the less fun parts of my life.

After reflecting, I confirmed that I don’t want to be the type of person that “takes a break” on health when things get chocolatey and the gym suddenly seems so hard to reach. You are your habits.

Since I want to be a super-duper cool [healthy]unicorn person, that’s changing the world, I’ve gotta have my shit together. And if I can’t even deal with my workout/health schedule, how will I manage a 100,000 person company one day? How will I raise 100M?

I don’t want to be the type of person that always snoozes the alarm, stays up late, and skips the workout. I normally have plenty of discipline, but when I dropped the ball health-wise, it humbled me to realize that I still have so much more learning/training to go.

Update: I swear this guy has an unlimited supply of O’henrys. He’s eating his third one. Speaking of ignoring health, lol.

Learning point #🤟: My next steps to becoming the cool Isabella Grandic

Obviously, channelling the #growthmindset is a MUST. During this trip, I was very fortunate to be surrounded by people who openly give me honest feedback, because that helps me become cooler way faster.

One of my problems is I’m not a ninja. I really suck at understanding my surroundings, and as a result, I run into things like walls, car doors, and llamas. My lack of surrounding self-awareness is probably “cute” for now. But when was the last time you saw a 30-year-old cutely walk into a window?


This is something I’m going to work towards getting better at 😅

On top of not being a clumsy baboon, it became increasingly clear that I needed to develop my own opinions with interesting insights.

After spending time with brilliant people, I took away that it’s important to be opinionated, with compelling contrary arguments. I don’t think I have a good answer to: “What’s something that you believe in, which most people disagree with”… *yet* ;)

I want to think about the world from new, exciting perspectives. I’ll be a ninja with some damn unique opinions [backed by fact] about the world.

Among all of these essential learnings, I learned, the hard way, to always check yelp reviews before indulging in a meal. Don’t settle for a 3 star with 52 reviews. You’re better than that Isabella.

Part 2: Traits that got me here

I had a few situations, like getting trapped on one end of the city, with no cellular data (to order an uber) but needing to get to the other end of the city ASAP. In Vegas, this happened and using my *figure it out* mindset, I somehow ended in an uber with the head of Microsoft sales in Asia. Serendipity is magical. Amen for boss mentality.

Boss Mentality [confidence]

This is the mindset where you’re pretending you run a really really important company. As a kid, it’s a little awkward to process this ultra confidence, because you’re someone that only recently found out that the easter bunny was actually mommy, and now you have to be a big girl and pretend to run google, but ultimately I think this is the secret sparkle. Because, if you don’t believe in yourself, who will?

At school (when I occasionally make the visit) I see so many people scared to voice their opinions, ask questions, be wrong or be curious; It’s all a damn mindset. Kids are always practicing anti-boss mentality.

I almost forget it’s not normal to ask a bunch of questions, raise your voice, and do bit all with pride. Maybe this is why I don’t have any “average” high school friends that do normal things like go to parties and homework. Sounds overrated.

If you gave a keynote, without purpose/confidence, who are you going to inspire? Boss mentality is underrated, but can be developed — it just stems from self-love.

The number of people that don’t enjoy being alone mind-boggles me. If you hate being alone, how can you love yourself? If you don’t love yourself, how are you going to be confident & believe in yourself?

TL;DR: learn to love yourself. Remember you’re one of a kind…. unless we crack DNA assembly & cloning, then there could be two of you! See, and this I exactly why I love myself: I can crack DNA jokes way past bedtime.

Anti-procrastination (motivation & action)

I have the motivation to GSD. I’m motivated by accomplishment, and I like getting things done.

When I was crafting my talk for the Microsoft Corenote, I started brainstorming right away! I wanted lots of drafts, so when it was time for me to present in front of thousands of people, I was on Version 5.0 — which was way better than Version 1.0.

If I left it to be completed last minute, I probably would’ve been fumbling on my words. Good things take time: have high standards. Just because I’m a kid, doesn’t mean I can’t deliver world-class presentations.

And I’d say, based on my twitter & Linkedin response, I did a pretty good job.

However, just because I got a standing ovation, doesn’t mean I’m done growing/learning. The best part is, this is just the start, I’m so pumped to anti-procrastinate become a charismatic, comedian, innovation speaker, that is solving some of the world’s biggest problems. We’re just at the tip of the iceberg folks.


I’m a very high-energy individual. I love constantly learning. I get excited over little things, including this apple juice I’m currently consuming.

When I walk into a room, I’m a breath of fresh air and the excited smart kid that everyone remembers.

Leaving impressions is vital in developing relationships and building your network. And your network = your net worth.

Now, because of my enthusiasm, I have some of the most successful and inspirational people supporting me…. you can too 🙃 by signing up for my monthly newsletter ;)

No one wants to feel sad; I’m the type of person that likes to make other people feel happy, optimistic, and energized. I like to feel this way myself, so this energy just radiates.

TL;DR: be excited about what you’re doing and show it. It’ll take you to unbelievable measures.

Another pro-tip is to talk to people about what they look for when hiring. You’ll start to see themes in answers, and then just emulate it. Try things out. See what fits & what works. But always do it with boss mentality 😎.

When you’re on a mission like I am, all you need is excitement to fuel you, and gratitude for keeping humble.

We were hiking for a few hours at one point with no water. All I could think about was drinking water. Just thinking about water was way more enjoyable than actually drinking it once we got some.

Henderson, Nevada

Now that I’ve given you an idea of my takeaways, and how I got on the big ass stage, I thought I’d share some revolutionary moments that shifted my view a little. Woahhh this crying baby is really freaking excited I better type faster.

Part 3: Good Moments

The Ovation

As you could probably guess, I was never the most popular kid. And the typical answer for someone of my intellect is: “nor did I want to be.” But I did. I really wanted people to like me. I was insecure about it, and it made me pretty sad during the good ol’ times through middle school and my first half of high school (still one more half to go! Oh dear!).

TL;DR without getting sappy all I’ve ever wanted was to feel slightly loved/appreciated.

Eventually, I stopped trying because the crowd of peeps at school weren’t my homies. I’ve always felt disregarded by people in some sense.

When I finished my keynote, hearing the clapping, and then seeing everyone stand up was one of the most awe-filling moments. I felt so whole. I honestly wanted to cry, but my makeup seemed expensive, so I held in my tears. I just stood in shock, soaking that moment in.

It all clicked: “ohhhh, this is what all those lonely days were for!”. Totally. Worth. It. My heart & head were genuinely bursting with gratitude. My thought process was: “how did I become the luckiest kid in the world?”

After I learned how to use Twitter properly, I saw all the kind messages. I was so overwhelmed with joy. It felt like what birthdays were supposed to be like!

It was a fantastic feeling appreciated.

Thank you to every person who stood up. You made what was a sad broken kid very, very happy. I’m all good now, BTW!!!!!!!! Life continually blows me away. But that moment was just humbling. I hope more sad, broken kids can eventually feel that relief.

Thanks to Anthony, Leigh & the team for making this possible!

Meeting my growth mindset inspiration

This part was just plain insane. I remember a few months back when I was in my learning-about-mindsets obsession phase, I’m pretty sure I watched every possible Satya talk. If you told January me I’d get to meet Satya, I’d probably slap you silly for messing with my emotions.

It was a hustle. This meeting involved showing up to fancy dinner parties under-dressed and uninvited (I’m a 15-year-old, what do I know about black & white formal?), emailing Satya’s COS several times, with Kevin Peesker, president of Microsoft Canada and lots of waiting. But it happened.

We had a conversation about what seemed like a billion exciting things. We were talking about Quantum Computing, AI, Cellular agriculture, and Proteomics, as well as everything in between. As is with everything these days, we even threw in some blockchain. I was totally fan-girling.

I’m a hungry learner; I go deep into internet rabbit holes way too frequently. This is a plus because I could keep up in such an intense and technical conversation with Satya. It reinforced how important it is always to be learning & curious.

Next time I speak with Satya, I will have EARNED my meeting. Time to do crazy shit in the world.

Kevin (left) you’re awesome. You really made my trip & experience incredible. Nadeem Nathoo (right) thanks for dealing with me and always offering advice/giving feedback

Spinning in circles a KM above ground

After the shenanigans of standing ovations, casually talking to the CEO of Microsoft, then getting kicked out of the four seasons, we ended up at the stratosphere, more than a thousand feet above the ground, with some of the most accomplished Microsoft employees. Oh, and lest we forget the CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN and FREE ICE CREAM. No wonder my health deteriorated…

Stratosphere is the big tall guy

How we ended up at the stratosphere is a whole other story that involved us getting kicked out, twice, but the critical tidbit was that we were there.

We were jamming out with some Microsoft peeps, talking about the ‘usual’: innovation, solving big problems and expanding TKS globally. Then we saw this big fat rollercoaster that went off the stratosphere. So, obviously, our instinct was to do it.

Looks safe… imagine it at night 😉

Like 10 mins later, I’m on this death contraption flying in the air. It was dizzy & thankfully I didn’t have THAT much free ice cream. But I mean, how many people can say they’ve been on a rollercoaster above Vegas at night?

This taught me two things:

Thursday, July 18th was probably the best day of my life: Standing ovation, Satya, and a crazy stratosphere experience. And that’s only a small portion of the whole day.

I hope more excited *nerdy* kids get impatient, and take action to change their life. I don’t want to be the “exception” anymore. What I’m doing should be the standard. We should start caring about the right things, not chocolate bars.

If all kids with big dreams had the boss mentality to try going after big things & ideas, I think we’d live in a more exciting world. Where we’re curing diseases left and right, exploring the stars and solving some of the world’s most pressing problems.

The baby’s quieting down, and plane’s getting happy; which means nap time. I’ll be in Europe for 6 weeks living like a big girl. Perfect time to practice my CEO-ing & cognizance. Until next time…

Cheers to Solving the World’s biggest problems,


PS. Please connect on Twitter, Linkedin, or my inbox is always open:

I also have a monthly newsletter if you want to be snazzy ;)

Isabella Grandic

Written by

Hey, I’m Izzy, a 16-year-old on a trajectory towards impacting billions with emerging tech. I’m super excited about cellular agriculture and machine learning.

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