Recently I received an email from a young colleague of mine in which he talked about feeling as though he was under water and couldn’t come up for air for a couple of days. When I read this, I recalled something I was told very early in my career by an older and wiser individual: “always be cork.” As I reflected on that advice, I felt compelled to reply to my young friend’s lament by telling him that the ‘sinking feeling’ he described was only a temporary one, because no matter how it might seem he was drowning under work pressures, difficulties or setbacks, he was made of cork and would always pop back up to the surface.
It’s true, of course, that superheroes are often thought of in metallic terms, e.g., “Iron Man” or the “Man of Steel” (which happens to be the title of the latest Superman movie). But cork, which is defined as “an impermeable, buoyant material,” a tree bark which also possesses elasticity, and fire resistance, and can thus be used to make a variety of products, would actually be far superior in endowing someone or something with the quality of resiliency. And when it comes to feeling like you’re “under water”– well, luxury liners made of steel have been known to quickly sink to the bottom of the ocean, whereas something consisting of cork always seems to stay afloat.
So my advice to anyone who feels smacked down or overwhelmed, whether by a job or life in general, would be: think of yourself as “Corky, the “Man (or Woman) of Cork” – in other words, as someone who’s unsinkable. And every time you uncork a wine bottle, hold that that magical piece of tree bark in your hand for a moment and remind yourself that this is what you’re made of as well. And whenever the storms of life come crashing down on you (as they almost always do at one time or another), think about that little cork, always popping up no matter how far you push it down in the water. It’s a mental metaphor that has enabled me to get through any number of reversals without ever feeling “sunk” – and I hope it can do the same for you.