I was in a meeting last week and someone usedthe Finnish term Sisu.  They were shocked that I knew what it meant until I explained that l worked for Nokia until May of this year.

Anyway, this episode made me think about what I've learned along the way ... sometimes it takes a random remark in a meeting to make you pause and reflect upon the journey.  No great insights or revelations below -- just a little background on Sisu.   

What many people know, but many more don’t, is that Nokia is a Finnish company.  I had many [+15] opportunities to travel to Finland.  As you can imagine, I got to know many Finns and learn about the Finnish culture.  One of the guiding principles of Finland is something called Sisu.  As Wikipedia describes it, Sisu …

“… could be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. The equivalent in English is "to have guts", and indeed, the word derives from sisus, which means something inner or interior. However, sisu has a long-term element in it; it is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain the same.”

I suppose the closest American equivalent is “patriotism,” but that does not get at the essence of Sisu.  You see, the Finns have endured centuries of struggles against the Russians, Germans, Swedes (and probably several others I don’t know about).  Not to mention that Finland is a tough place – cold, dark and vast.  These factors combine to give Finns a fortitude unlike any I’ve ever seen. 

Interestingly, Sisu can also cause insularity -- it is after all a bunkerish mentality.  Despite that I always very much appreciated Sisu -- maybe not so much for what it stands for, but more for the fact that an entire nation operates under such a clear guiding principle.


2-time World's Strongest Man winner [and Finn], Jouko Ahola, likely has tons of Sisu.