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The Simultac Fonton June 15, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
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Early in my career, I had the good fortune to work in a pure R&D group.  Our goal to research and develop large, scalable multiprocessors.  Some members of the group worked on more conventional shared-memory systems, and others focused on a very different kind of computer known as a dataflow machine.

One of the senior researchers had been wrestling with dataflow architecture for years.  One night, in a dream, he had a “eureka moment” in which the key to unlocking the secret of dataflow computing was revealed.  He woke up, grabbed a pad on the nightstand, and scribbled down the answer.  He then fell back asleep, presumably a very contented man.

When he arose the next morning, he reached for the pad.  On it, he had written

Simultac Fonton

and nothing else.

The frustration!  The agony!  He knew he had the answer.  He had seen it in his dream!  But what made sense in his dream made no sense the next day, and the cryptic “Simultac Fonton” was no help.

In the ensuing years, he has continued his efforts to find the elusive Simultac Fonton.  Presumably it exists, or he will create it. I’ll leave it to the more curious readers to see if such a thing has ever existed.

For those of us who were present when the Simultac Fonton was “discovered,” it represents that secret element that we all seek, the magic key to our success. In that sense, we all have a Simultac Fonton, whether we know it or not.  To be successful, we must find it.

For the majority of  people, finding the Simultac Fonton is not the problem: they don’t even know what they want to accomplish!  It is difficult to find the key to your personal when you have not even clarified your metric for success.  Do you want to be a great leader?  A great father? A successful entrepreneur? A compelling public speaker? A respected teacher?  Our goals are as unique as we each are, but we must spend some serious time understanding ourselves and defining our goals.

With a goal in mind, we can then seek the corresponding Simultac Fonton. This is even harder.  For dataflow computers, the Simultac Fonton is most likely tangible, an ingenious bit of hardware or an algorithm that solves the problem. For most of our other goals, the Simultac Fonton is intangible: a personal flaw, or a blind spot, or a missing skill that we may never know we are lacking.

You may never be a great leader because you cannot convey your vision.  You may never be a great father because you cannot let go of your own needs.  You may never be a great entrepreneur because you cannot tolerate risk. For every goal, there may be a crucial element, the Simultac Fonton, that you cannot envision. If you cannot see it, you cannot seek it.

How do we see it? I think we need to turn to others and sincerely request their unvarnished feedback.  We need to develop a small circle of truly trusted advisors that will point out those flaws and describe the Simultac Fonton for us.  In return, we need to help others understand their Simultac Fontons. Only then can we each find our Fontons and achieve our goals.

Do you have a goal? Do you understand your Simultac Fonton? Are you close to finding it?  Will you succeed?