You’ve won the lottery

Here’s how you can become a Zen Shark

Isabella Grandic
Oct 9, 2019 · 13 min read

You’ve clicked this for 1 of 2 reasons (or maybe both🤔):

  1. You like winning lotteries (and ya wanna find out more!)
  2. Becoming a Zen Shark sounds intriguing.

You’re in the right place.

I explore philosophies & how they relate to life. Then I toss them on the internet, for readers, like you, aspiring to become a zen shark (definition coming).

You might be asking yourself, “Isabella (that’s me!), if your thrive for philosophical research was a GIF, what GIF would you be?”

Ok, you most certainly didn’t think of that to start with, but since you’re thinking about it now…

Step #1 I CONSUME!!!!!!
Step #2 DROP KNOWLEDGE.

OHHHMMMMMMMMMMM (that’s my attempt at typing a meditative yoga sound, aka let’s get started 😎).

What the heck is a Zen Shark?!

In essence, it’s someone that combines living presently with having big ambitions.

If Buddha and Elon Musk had a baby, they would have a zen shark.

This is almost paradoxical since they live by such different philosophies.

  • Buddha’s view-on-life = accept what you have. Don’t get attached to thoughts, feelings (like anger), etc. Everything is good in its own light (pfft, talk about optimist) [Zen]
  • Elon’s view-on-life: holy heck, why aren’t we on mars?? Why haven’t we levelled up human intelligence?? WHAT ARE WE DOING? Humanity needs to level up. Nothing is good right now, let’s build the future. (Aka super ambitious). [Shark]

Everyone’s happiness comes from a different blend of zen-shark-i-ness. I call it, being privately happy and publically useful. Yes, both can exist.

The spectrum. I’m also equally as shocked that I found a cartoon of a shark doing yoga.

Just like this chicken can be both super fun and a pro-Mexican hat wearer at the same time.

Meet Chuck. I promise this chicken will have utility soon. Nice hat Chuck =)

If you want to be privately happy and publicly useful you’re in the right place. To start, let’s explore the two sides of the spectrum.

It’s the art of minimizing suffering.

Worrying = a form of suffering

Suffering = caused by one’s attachment to something

💭 Let’s thought-bubble this.

You’re going sombrero shopping for Chuck (the chicken)🐓. He’s famous on Instagram, and you two are best buds.

Because you’re so deeply attached to Chuck, you’re going to over-analyze the sombrero shopping because you want him to look as snazzy as possible.

You’re going to have 6 panic attacks because you’re worried about what your chicken, and subsequently, its 600K followers think.

But that’s what attachment does. It magnifies things that don’t matter. (Sorry, Chuck!).

In this case, you’re creating unneeded suffering. Why stress about the future? Enjoy sombrero-chicken shopping instead! YOLO.

Here’s what Buddhism says about suffering:

  • Everything in life is an illusion, don’t take it too seriously & don’t get attached. (I.e., you chicken’s Instagram isn’t your do-or-die)
  • Understand that worrying won’t solve anything. (It won’t make Sombrero shopping easier)
  • We see things as stable and permanent, which results in this magnification (Your Chicken’s digital footprint isn’t that important. The Chicken will eventually die.)
  • Ignorance is the root of evil. We don’t see the full picture, and that causes suffering. In this case, we don’t acknowledge that our chicken’s sombrero doesn’t matter. We attach it to our identity (you’re known as the person with a chicken; gotta #represent), thus making it a bigger deal than it needs to be.

If a Buddhist went sombrero shopping for Chuck:

  • During shopping, they’d stop worrying about the future, and just enjoy the experience
  • The chicken would not be part of their identity. It’s an excellent asset and a fun friend, sure. But Buddhists know the self is an illusion. Thus, they don’t worry about their reputation with the chicken.

Buddhism is about mental gymnastics: teaching yourself how to experience present with no attachment. You become free of suffering.

This is the practice of seeing things as they actually are: removing ignorance. Ignorance is the root of all evil (suffering is evil), so why wouldn’t you want less of it?? This is done through understanding (AKA questioning where desires and pain come from).

Boom. So I just [briefly] explained Buddhism using a chicken.

Buddhist philosophy strives to enlighten people — wake em’ up from ignorance. It’s supposed to make you happy.

The downside of chasing this type of internal happiness is you don’t necessarily create anything. As in, you’re not building things for society. It’s a personal mind training after-all.

As impressive it sounds like sitting under a fig tree (as Buddha did) trying to reach enlightenment, I still feel dutiful to make an impact on society. I want to build stuff that lasts. I don’t want my life to be all about my own personal journey.

Elon Musk wants to build things that last.

Where Buddhist detach themselves from anything and just enjoy the present, Musk-ists are building the future. They might not be masters of inner peace, but they’ll make the rocket ships.

This is about having goals, noticing what’s wrong in the world today, and taking action.

Although this is a paradoxical spectrum of desires (zen vs shark), I think we can have both (which ultimately makes it not a paradox…). Life purpose thrives in somewhere along this scientific spectrum.

In this case, you’re a visionary. You could be solving problems, helping people or working at an innovative startup, etc. Impact is the name-of-the-game.

And you can thrive off both lifestyles. At the same time.

How to be privately happy and publically useful 🚀

Here are the 5 steps towards becoming your best Zen Shark Self™.

So you’ve concluded that the world is miserable, and you want to join the “I want to help fix it,” club.

But you’re also part of the “I want to get over my anxiety attacks I get when shopping for my chicken’s sombrero,” club. Now what?

If you’re reading this, you’re lucky.
If you can see chuck, you’re (extra extra) lucky:

Chuck the highlighter! ❤️

I’m sure you’ve heard this three hundred and fourteen million, seven-hundred and twenty-nine thousand times, but your life is dope. Some so many people would actually kill to be you right now.

But here’s the problem with humans: we really really really (to the 17th power) suck at being present and realizing how great our lives are. We’re always striving for the next thing.

The reality is you’re not living your life right now. When our mind wanders into thoughts, you simply stop living: most of your time is spent thinking of the past/future. These “realities” don’t actually exist; they just remove you from the only thing that does (the now).

I feel like an imposter writing this section because literally 10 minutes ago I found myself wandering in random thoughts (if you’re curious, my consciousness was picturing myself piled under a bunch of french fries)

This is what goes on in my head. Except, I was swimming in the pile of french fries. Oddly enough, I couldn’t find a picture to represent that.

In our thoughts, we’re always swimming in piles of french-fries, or something equally or more peculiar. Most of the time, our minds are in a different world. That’s how we forget we’ve won the lottery.

But you have. We’re living in the most thrilling point in history. History was a whole lot of suckage, and now there’s way less suckage. The fact that you’re on your electrical device reading this currently means you’re living better than 100% of humans that came before you.

Even if you were a king in 2000 BC, you didn’t have AC for crying out loud. You’re living better than kings.

There has never been a better point in history to not be a white male. That’s insane.

TL;DR: our lives are sooooooooo good. Realize it. Acknowledge it. Breathe it. Having this foundation of thankfulness makes going through any tough situation so much better.

Once you escape the dump of french-fries, you enter a new state: presentism, with a hint of gratitude.

When you remove the future/past thoughts your mind is clear. You get to enjoy right now’s sensations. When you truly experience the present moment, you’ll clear your mind of suffering, and feel gratitude for every breath.

Develop your foundation of gratitude, which’ll help you be more Buddha 🙃.

Takeaway: once you realize h🤗w good you have it, you’ll become insanely thankful and positive.

Action Item: watch some documentaries. Open your eyes to the stuff happening in the world. It’s 😓🥴😮. I recommend starting with Slum Dog Millionaire.

If you have sincere gratitude for life, no matter what, any FREAKING situation you’re in, you’ll remove the anxiety.

Lost Chuck’s Sombrero? You can still be grateful for Chuck.

Did your significant other cheat on you? You still have Chuck.

Lost a super-bowl bet? You won the best-pet-chicken-ever competition.

You want to clear your mind from any junk that’s holding you back. Worry is one of those things.

👉 You want to reach the point where you’re one of those people who can be happy with anything.

If you’re able to be happy with anything, you’ve basically set yourself up for a life free of suffering.

Because now it doesn’t matter what happens. Fame, money, ego — none of that drives you. You don’t need any of it.

Detach yourself from your success. If your self-worth is correlated with your success, you’re going to be driven by the wrong things. But if it’s detached, you’ll pursue your ambition without ego in your way.

Remember worrying = suffering = attachment; identify what you’re attached to, that way you know what to remove.

Shattering your mental attachments like…

Takeaway: remove extra layers of stress that aren’t helping you. Is it better to worry or not worry over something you have NO power to change? Not, of course.

Action items

  • Meditation, specifically, focusing on where you are(we often focus on where we could be). It’s simple but powerful enough to train your consciousness to stay present.
  • Be your own light. Develop internal curiosity 🤓. As you go deeper into your “self,” you’ll discover things within you that need a significant slap-in-the-face (like insecurities that don’t matter). Find these things and toss them out the window.
  • Lower your expectations: the lower your expectations for life are, the less you get disappointed. When unexpected (good) stuff happens, you’ll treat it as an unneeded, but incredibly appreciated bonus. Train yourself to be satisfied with less, or read my article on it ;)

Now that you’ve cleaned your mind of unneeded worries, and you’ve lowered your bar for satisfaction, you’re reading to be ambitious ⭐️😇.

By clearing your mind, and removing the BS, you’re doing yourself a favour for your ambitious goals. By ensuring you’re doing something for the purpose itself, rather than some identity (like self-worth, or reputation). If you’re attached to the goal, you’re more likely to build a lasting vision.

Jim Collins, a leadership master (guy worked with Steve Jobs for crying out lad), has written books on the topic of having ambition and achieving it. If you want a taste, here’s a good intro podcast.

The TL;DR: leaders who want to build an enduring mission, build companies that last. But, it all depends on why you’re doing it. If you’re doing it for power, you’re less likely to build a lasting mission.

By clearing your head, you’re automatically starting with a strong foundation towards your ambition (whatever it is). 🚀

Think because that’s how you have thoughts. (Wow, really?!).

Why thinking is critical: what you think you become. What’s your vision? What are your goals? How can you break those down?

Thinking without action doesn’t make you become. Neither does acting without thinking.

Takeaway: spend time thinking. If you never “imagine” your goal, you can never start executing.

Action items:

  1. Spend time thinking about your life, its goals, etc. Ask yourself if what you’re doing is fulfilling your internal mission. Can you imagine yourself doing more meaningful work?
  2. Take one small step towards whatever the “meaningful work” is. If you don’t change what you’re doing right now, you’re not going to make any progress. Based on what your goals are, take some action towards achieving it.

You have your foundation: a suffering-free mind, and a goal-oriented lifestyle. Now it’s about maintaining this balance. Insert Meditation.

You wanna consistently be a zen-shark. Don’t thrive on motivational spikes, then eventually lose the flare.

The impact of meditation is profound. TL;DR: it increases and consistency the number of gamma waves — the fastest & most reliable of the fantastic 5 (brainwaves).

You’ve experienced them. They’re the moments of creative discovery & crisp realizations.

Like the Eureka moment when you decide to dye your pet-chicken pink:

😍Now that’s a Chicken

These moments happen because you’re so in the moment, you almost shut off your unconscious mind.

One Buddhist belief is that your unconscious mind defaults to dissatisfaction. But when you focus on your awareness, nothing else matters. The fact that your chicken is more pastel, but you really wanted it to be an intense magenta doesn’t matter in the present.

If you’re continually flowing in a sea of gamma waves, you’re going to frequently be having exciting insights about the world around you. You’ll have more of those satisfying clicking moments.

Close your eyes and think about your favourite ever food — imagine the first bite. Vision all the sensations from smell to the way the food sits in your mouth. Do that for a split second — that’s a glimpse of what gamma waves feel like.

This is the feeling the drives me 🚙. It’s my motivation. I’m always gamma-raying and enjoying anything that happens to me.

From using Chuck several times during this article, I’ve learned that the best way to avoid complacency is curiosity.

Constantly be questioning and pushing your growth. (Or, subsequently, be creative with how you throw chicken analogies into philosophical writing 🤓)

The dream team: meditation + curiosity 😍🔑

Takeaway: train your mind to have more gamma rays, you’ll keep up the zen-shark-ness. Don’t get complacent.

Action: Do Sam Harris’ waking up course. It’s just 10 mins a day for 50 days, and it’s 100% worth your investment.

Look, maybe my chicken & I put up an impressive argument towards being a zen shark. But there’s no set balance! Ultimately, this is your life. When it comes to balancing private happiness and public good, it depends on what level of intensity you.

Look, maybe my chicken & I put up an impressive argument towards being a zen shark. But there’s no set balance! Ultimately, this is your life. When it comes to balancing private happiness and some public good, it depends on what level of intensity you.

This is a “test & iterate” type of ground. Learn what works for you. More shark less zen? Cool. 50–50? Also dope. Just play around for a bit: experience it.

During my Buddhism nerd-outs, I stumbled upon this idea that I call inner synchronization. Buddha uses himself as a guide to finding inner peace. (Not the external world)

My definition of synchronization is an internal order that works for you. The balance of the zen-shark scale.

As you’re always working towards your goals while cleaning your mind, don’t forget reflection.

Every once in awhile check-in. Maybe ask yourself, “Did I really need to buy Chuck a sombrero?”. That way, you’re always fixing the synchronization, creating a zen-shark balance.

Takeaway: while you’re on this journey, make sure you’re looking back and reflecting. You won’t get it right the first time — zen-shark creation is a skill of experimentation.

Action: in your calendar, place a reoccurring event to spend between 30 minutes — 2h reflecting on your life every two weeks. Spend time locked up in a room, and brainstorm ways to improve based on your reflection. It can be as long and frequently as wanted: just remember to not only be reflecting, also spend time making progress/taking action.


Personally, this is my current 5-step framework for living a balanced life. I’m SOOOO pumped to channel my inner ambitious Buddha 😍

Step 1: Gratitude

Step 2: Remove the worry

Step 3: Think with action

Step 4: become a ninja gamma-ray producer

Step 5: Refine

  • Watch documentaries
  • Lower your expectations and/or read more about simplicity+ mental clarity [EPICURUS]
  • Set goals by asking yourself: Am I living my most meaningful life? Take action on these goals.
  • Meditate 10 mins per day w/ Sam Harris
  • Set re-occurring reflection times.

I’m writing this at 4 am so no wonder I thought of the term zen-shark to describe this enlightenment process. In case you don’t want to sound like a maniac in conversations, here are some alternative words:

  • The search for multi-dimensional sensational synchronization ™ (this is for when you’re really tryna impress the other party) (the fact that I came up with this running on 2 hours of sleep is a gamma-ray moment)
  • Mindful ambition discovery (for more subtle conversations)
  • Becoming a more useful, yet, individually happy human (in case mom texts frantically wondering why you quit your job and took a 12-day silent meditation retreat, Costa Rica)
  • I personally like Zen Shark (for all your cool friends 🙃)

Whatever you wanna call it, this process of private happiness & public utility reminds me of fireflies in nature.

Fireflies start their night flashing randomly, then, through some random force in nature, they begin flashing in synchrony. The goal of this process is to align yourself and have the synchronization that works for you. Wow, this got deep — Chuck any final thoughts?

From Chuck: “No, I’m chilling. I’m really lovin’ this hat “ (see, over-thinking anxiety part of my brain, the 6 panic attacks during shopping were simply not needed).

That’s it for me & chuck ✌️

Best of luck navigating the zen-shark spectrum! Also, if you ever buy your pet chicken a sombrero, tweet me a picture @izzygrandic ;)


Thanks for giving this a read! I’m a 16-year-old futurist and tech evangelist. I write about emerging technologies, sciences and philosophy.

I’m currently on the trajectory towards potentially impacting billions, if ya want to join me along for the ride, here’s my monthly newsletter, or you can check out my web footprint isabellagrandic.com. I send out my projects, anything I’ve been reading, and all the chicken-sombrero theories I’ve been thinking about.

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