A Better Metaphor

I have never liked the saying, “The cream rises to the top,” meaning that those who are the best at what they do will get noticed and reap the rewards of their talent and hard work, whether the talent happens to be playing the piano, writing books, acting, writing a blog or whatever. I can’t say definitively what causes one person to rise to the top while so many others continue in obscurity their whole lives but I believe that, in addition to having talent and working at it, one must have connections and be in the right place at the right time.

The cream rising to the top metaphor doesn’t describe what is happening in the real world. Instead, imagine a field of rocks that is representative of all the rocks on Earth. Most will be plain brown rocks, mostly having little or no value and not very interesting to anyone, though a few may get a lot of attention due to their unusual size or shape. But among all the plain brown rocks there are a few precious gems, small, possibly hidden underneath the plain rocks, waiting to be discovered by someone willing to dig for them and perhaps to be brought to the attention of more people if discovered by the right person and promoted at the right time.

The problem with this metaphor is that it doesn’t translate easily into a catchy phrase. We’ve all heard that, “There are hidden gems out there waiting to be discovered,” but somehow that’s not as appealing to most people as, “The cream rises to the top,” perhaps because it’s just too much work to go digging for gems.

2 thoughts on “A Better Metaphor

  1. Mimi

    My mother always said “A diamond in the rough”.
    I agree wholeheartedly. The most famous anything is not necessarily the best or brightest, it’s just the one who either clawed their way or was airlifted to a high spot, visible to enough people. Sometimes those people are really good at what they do, and they made their way up based on merit; sometimes, not so much. Sometimes, not at all. And there’s more creepy crawlers who will Nancy Kerrigan the knees of someone who actually is headed in the upward direction with talent and hard work. Flotsam rises to the top too, and gems don’t float. :)

    This blog is wonderful, and I like it better than many I have seen that have a million readers.

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