Sisu (pronounced “sea-sue”) is a uniquely Finnish word that, loosely translated, means “guts.” But this translation doesn’t really do it justice. To a Finn, the concept of sisu has a mystical, almost mythic quality; it’s a trait that is deeply embedded in their national spirit and identity.
It’s having the inner reserve to face things head on and not give up. It’s not momentary courage; it’s the fortitude to sustain an action even against impossible odds. Said another way, it’s clearing a forest with your bare hands in the middle of a bleak, bitter and damned dark Nordic winter.
Here are 10 sisu lessons I’ve collected from the Finns:
1. Grit your teeth and perservere.
2. Never flinch.
3. Act rationally in the face of adversity.
4. Don’t brag about your accomplishments.
5. Decide on a course of action and stick to it.
6. Just because more powerful and aggressive competitors surround you doesn’t mean you can’t triumph. (Think Finland’s next-door neighbors Russia and Sweden.)
7. The only way to attain sisu is over time, by direct exposure to sisu-producing situations.
8. If life is too easy, you lose your sisu.
9. Remember that when you have sisu, “you may not always win, but you will never lose.”
10. Sometimes it’s good to jump in sub-zero water.
I think sisu would be a pretty good thing for every brand to have. Actually, it would be good for all of us.
Oh, and the next Finnish word I’ll be tackling is “krapula.” Finnish for “hangover.” I’m sure there’s a connection there someplace.
By Joanne de Menna