Fuelled by a ‘Far-Away’ Vision

Iz, how are you so enthusiastic? My attempt to answer…

Isabella Grandic
8 min readFeb 10, 2024

I woke up in Malaysia, hitched a ride to Singapore and then caught a flight from Changi to Hanoi. It wasn’t the first or last time I’d do 3 countries in 1 day.

When I landed in Vietnam, I saw a man advertising taxis with a colourful poster board. It looked legit to me. I negotiated the price and got in. Eventually we got on a highway that made Los Angeles traffic look like a leisurely rural road.

20 minutes in, the car swivelled to the shoulder and I was told to get out. The driver said “my friend’s coming” and then drove away. And there I was, on the side of Ringway 3, a highway usually at 10x its capacity, with only my backpack and wits; I thought for sure that was it. A good life.

Lo and behold, another unmarked white sedan actually came. Given that the other option was to stay stranded among traffic, I got in. Eventually I arrived in Hanoi safe with a big smile on my face:

20 minutes later

“That could have gone really poorly, but it didn’t” sums up a lot of my life.

Most of the time I leave with a ridiculous story, a burst of adrenaline, and a profound appreciation for the kindness of humans in this world.

I probably have at least 1,000 stories similar in absurdity to being shuffled between assorted vehicles on Vietnam’s Ringway 3. Less than 1% have ended badly. 99% have taught me to lead with love instead of fear, and those 1% have taught me to figure-it-out in dire situations.

This ratio fuels my happiness to be alive. 99% of life experiences are lovely, and 100% of them can become great stories. “Feel the fear and do it anyway”

another happy capture in Vietnam

These adventures inspire me to go on more. What else is there to discover? What absurd situations can I find myself in? What did I previously think was impossible?

It’s a cycle. First, I am curious: this man is hustling for taxi riders, what does it cost? Then I am optimistic: seems legit, let’s get in. Then there’s a challenge that resolves itself. And then I am enthusiastic because humans are so kind, life is random, and gahhhhhhh I get to live and breathe and eat Banh Mi this week!!!!!

Through these lived experiences and a strong grounding in gratitude, I believe I’ve been able to become an exceptionally curious and enthusiastic individual.

Sometimes I get asked: How do I maintain my curiosity/enthusiasm? And subsequently, how have I not died yet?

Let’s focus on the first question for now!!

1 in 400 Trillion

The real answer to why I’m curious is that no one has stopped me.

I think my teachers would have preferred a timid, obedient kid who didn’t challenge their authority (it’s grade 6, you’re not actually supposed to have an opinion on the thesis of A Wrinkle in Time!!). But my parents didn’t care about my behaviour as long as my grades and my blood type matched (A+, haha). I did get in frequent trouble for being too loud or disruptive or eager. I still do.

No punishment was ever grand enough to squander my imagination or rebellion. I simply loved learning too much. For instance, in grade 10 I built my own ‘liberal arts’ education (dissatisfied with the pace of my high school). I studied stoic philosophy, the history of mankind, geography, Nobel Prize discoveries, etc. I skipped 70% of my classes. The government and my teachers were not happy.

Here’s the interesting thing about studying history. You realize how good and precious life is now!!!!!!!! Small details like conventions in Toronto public schools lose their significance. Instead, I felt FUELLED by the fact that I am a woman in 2024 instead of 1924. Or that we have clean water, antibiotics, early breast cancer detection, AC, Internet, maps, cake, air planes, etc. Spectacular!!!!

My curiosity has compounded and over the years and I’ve collected numerous fun facts including that the chance of being born is 1 in 400 trillion. (AKA 1 in 400,000,000,000,000). The chance of winning a big lottery is 1 in 292,000,000. Good to be alive eh?

Historically and statistically I understand that I am extremely fortunate. This is the bedrock for my cheerful state of being.

But I think there’s an even more important motivator.

I want children

Ever since I was 10, I’ve kept diaries of my friends and what their parents / homes have been like so I could correlate traits to environmental influences. Sorry if that’s creepy! I can’t help myself. I adore observing human development. It’s probably why I love memoirs so much or why I’ve obsessively explored women’s reproductive health.

Pretty much, if we have been acquaintances in some fashion, I have thought about why you are the way you are in order to derive some mechanisms for human development.

Additionally, my (very long) baby names list has been a decade in the making. It’s my favourite page on Notion ;)

I am so excited to serve my future children. I get fired up thinking about being their #1 fan, learning from them, and evolving into my best self to be the best example.

I use this as horsepower now: how can I become happy, healthy, and wise so that I can help create the happiest, healthiest and wisest possible humans?

Here are some specific ways this manifests:

1) Motivation for doing hard things

For example, when times get tough and my energy is low, I’ll still go on a run. Because it’s not just a run for me. It’s not just my body. It’s not just to keep a promise to myself.

It’s for them :)

The same logic flows for my diet, information intake, being respectful in disagreements, conducting myself in social settings, integrity, and so forth.

2) Friends → aunts and uncles

I see my friends now as aunts/uncles later — this keeps my bar high for the people I choose to be around.

I want my kids to have an incredible, diverse chosen family. This starts with the behaviours and relationships I respect today. My calculus, therefore, is not just about me. They are ‘dependents’ in my mind that give me courage to make difficult decisions.

PS. This couples nicely with ‘doing hard things.’ The more consistently I do hard things, like maintaining vulnerability or taking on difficult projects, the more I need people around me who reinforce that trajectory. I.e., by choosing to ‘be better’ myself, I filter for people who meet that caliber and who can continue inspiring me (and my future children) for years to come.

3) Presentness, at least for the sake of data collection

Because I’m so fascinated by human development, I find it important to study humans in many wild contexts. From the classroom to the streets to the cafe to the airport. You know, for data quality’s sake ;)

So even if I’m in a ‘boring’ lecture, there is always something to learn about human psychology that I could adapt to my child-raising pedagogy… So in essence, nothing is a waste of time or space. I can be present. I can learn. In any situation in life.

Why this dream? It taps into my best definition of joy.

My mom is a prolific hostess and a profound inspiration for how I’d like to lead in my life.

If anyone’s experienced Slavic hospitality, you’ll probably recall either being more stuffed than any time in your life or more drunk than any other time in your life.

I can’t express the panic I grew up around when guests were coming. Because ‘come for coffee and desserts’ actually means ‘come for a 12 course meal where I milked the cow myself to create the ingredients for this cake.’ High effort and blood pressure!

I’m not much different. When people come over, it is physically impossible for me to sit until everyone has consumed 4000 calories and enough water to fill the Nile. But I LOVE it. Serving other people feels like a seismic motivation; I feel very lucky to have discovered this passion early on in life.

Kids are a natural application — I would get to host people every day of my life!!!! This feels like an unbelievably awesome activity that matches the exact wavelength I like to exist at…

(Also, I personally feel that my parents spend too much time debating what colour raincoats my dogs should wear. I think they need grandchildren/real dilemmas in their life soon lol)

Conclusion: Co-Existing with Wonder

I think a lot of problems in life are solved simply by living in a state of fascination.

Why? This de-centres ego and allows us to experience the miracle of each moment.

What does this look like? Perceive the people and space around you. Ask yourself: what’s beautiful? What’s working? How can I help? How can I open myself to the experiences around me?

From this wondering, we get to observe. Notice the root word “serve.” :) We’re tribal animals, after all. If you open your heart to observance, you will find service, which will give you somewhere meaningful to put your attention and energy.

It’s amazing how many of our problems dissipate when we seek to serve others; only the important problems survive. We don’t have time to fret about inconveniences or inconsequential situations because we’re too busy loving or learning.

Children are amazing because they do live in this state of fascination, all the time. The reality is that the first 18 years of a child’s life is dedicated to learning. That is SUCH a beautiful thing to guide and support. And guess what? If I spend 18 years proxy-ing someone’s pursuit of curiosity, I’ll get to do much of the same. It’s a 2 in 1: children will remind me to live in this state of fascination (where life feels more abundant), and, by virtue of taking on a big responsibility (guiding a human’s life), only my important problems will survive.

In addition to everything mentioned, I also just get jazzed envisioning what I could create for my kids.

Just to geek out a bit, there are 2 things I am excited to enable:

  1. A library / environment for extreme inquiry (don’t worry, there is a 21 step master plan for this haha)
  2. A home always open to others; i.e., constantly hosting people of different walks of life

If they contain 50% of my genetics and 50% of the genetics of someone who can full-time tolerate me, they will enjoy talking about semiconductor geopolitics by the time they’re toddlers — or maybe they’d have a few questions for a physicist or author who stays in our guest room? I get electric thinking about the life they could have if their curiosity was uncapped. I want to design that.

I have many more ideas around raising humans. In the downtime between now and kids, I am reading and exploring human behaviour in the wild. Basically I am a subtle stalker and an extreme reader. But at least it makes every moment or circumstance feel valuable — because there’s always something to be learned — and I can update my algorithm for human development accordingly. Kidding! Am I?

Anyways, that’s a bit more about why I’m so curious, enthusiastic and optimistic everyday.

A recent binge from Lazlo Polgar’s “Raise a Genius!”



Isabella Grandic

Aspiring healthcare infrastructure designer, technologist and scientist.