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A sand tiger shark swimming
AP Photo/Michael Sohn
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CHUM IS FOR CLOSERS

Career advice from me, a shark

By Corinne Purtill

Here’s what I know about humans: You’ll pay attention to anything with sharks in it. Put a shark fin on a movie poster and you suckers line up around the block. Name a show where rich people throw money at dumb ideas Shark Tank and you tune in by the millions.

And Shark Week. Oh my God, Shark Week. I’m a shark, and I’m going to tell you a little secret: Whenever I see a diver with a camera, I swim by real slow, all dramatic and menacing, and the whole time I’m taking a piss through my skin. We have a good time at your expense down there. We really do.

I know you like learning about sharks, if by “learning” you mean watching scientists pretend that it’s helpful to have Rob Gronkowski in the boat while they’re trying to tag sharks. But you could genuinely learn a lot from us, too. We’re at the top of the ocean game. Be more like us and you could boss things on land.

Be flexible

It’s a fast-changing ecosystem. Winners adapt. Be as flexible as if your entire skeleton was made of cartilage. When one tooth breaks, grow another. When temperatures in your regular habitat climb for reasons beyond your control—thanks, humans!migrate to more northerly climes.

Go with your gut

Don’t be afraid to change your plans when you sense it’s the right thing to do. When your jelly-filled electroreceptors detect minute shifts in the ocean’s magnetic fields that indicate movement and possible prey nearby, trust your instincts and head in that direction. Did I say gut? I meant jelly-filled electroreceptors.

Accept that you’ll be misunderstood

Look, you can be an apex predator, or you can have friends all over the food chain. Not both.

But when people don’t know the real you they make up their own stories, and sometimes those work to your advantage. Of course it’s not true that we never sleep. Of course it’s not true that we never stop swimming. You just think it is, and as a result you stay out of our habitats (during most weeks). We don’t have to intimidate you; your false beliefs do the work for us. It’s like Niccolò Machiavelli said, when pondering whether it is better to be feared or loved: “It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.” Machiavelli is big with sharks.

Have a squad and a #happyplace

That said, even ruthless, solitary killers need support now and then. Make time for friends once in a while—I suggest getting together with hundreds of your best buds in a remote spot in the Pacific Ocean for reasons that continue to mystify scientists.

Be indispensable

Sharks have weathered their share of scandals over the years—we’re still dealing with fallout of the summer of 1975—but in the end, performance is what counts. When it comes to maintaining balance in the ecosystem, nobody beats apex predators. Without us, the ocean would be a disgusting soup of jellyfish and algae. Now that is job security.