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Forbes: Why Business Leaders Should Follow ‘Sisu,’ Finland’s Equivalent Of The American Dream

By Heikki Väänänen, CEO & Founder | HappyOrNot

Earlier this month you may have seen my Forbes article on the uniquely Finnish trait of sisu. The most fascinating part of this process was putting into words what sisu means for me personally; while all Finns know what sisu is, it’s one of those terms that’s strangely difficult to translate into English.

But why is sisu important? Firstly, consider that Finland, a country with a population lower than that of Minnesota, has given the world the likes of Nokia, Kone, Rovio, and Supercell, and leads the way when it comes to education and societal progress. It’s not that there’s something in the water in Finland, it’s that sisu runs through our blood.

Personally, sisu is all about pushing your boundaries and facing seemingly impossible challenges head-on. Even if the chances of success seem slim, and failure looks certain, sisu fills you with the bravery to keep going. This, in today’s world, is more applicable than ever before.

In the Forbes article I explore the history of sisu, with Finland facing many difficult times over the past 900 years, from Sweden and Russia occupying the country, to herculean efforts in World War II in -40°F as 810,000 soldiers fought against 2,500,000 Soviet troops. The cold and dark climate has almost certainly played a part in us being a resilient nation too!

But I didn’t write my piece on sisu just to show off about Finland! It was because of my strong belief that sisu can be implemented into anyone’s way of thinking, regardless of where they’re from, or where they’re based. Just as how you can rewire your brain to think in a different way, you can learn to channel your inner sisu as well.

It’s difficult to count the number of times that sisu has guided me throughout my career. When HappyOrNot was just starting up it took us 40 prospective customer visits before we secured our first client, while a leading figure in the Finnish business scene told us, rather bluntly, that there was no future for us, and that we should give up. If it wasn’t for sisu, which pushed us through these difficult times, our company would never have gone on to become what it is today, with our terminals used in 120 countries by over 4,000 organizations, across sectors including retail, transport, and healthcare. Clients include the San Francisco 49ers, London Heathrow Airport, McDonald’s, and Massachusetts General Hospital. I don’t blame that individual for telling us to give up, but I do thank sisu for proving them wrong.

To find out more about how you can use sisu to achieve your goals, check out my Forbes article here.

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