"Sisu" and the Strength to Achieve Dreams


While helping a friend write an essay as part of applying to Harvard Business School, I was introduced to the Finnish term "sisu", which I want to share to end my two month break from writing.

Roughly translated, "sisu" is a Finnish concept that refers to the kind of resilience, courage, and tenacity required to survive long Finnish winters and the occasional attack from your eastern enemy (Russia) that has 20x the troops you have. It is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain that courage over time. Finns are bred for battles where the odds are consistently stacked against them.

As I helped this friend, who is inspired by his Finnish heritage to become a successful businessman to have the means to help the downtrodden and needy, those enduring great trials with "sisu" of their own, I thought about my own dream of becoming a successful author and the grit to get there.

I have been very fortunate to have a great job as a writer at booming startup, Qualtrics, an amazing, supportive, fun, and beautiful wife, Kristen, and a home for us to grow together, but when people ask me about my fiction writing, I have felt so discouraged lately; I have maybe 5-6 readers, a website that's rarely visited, and books that never sell despite my belief that they are exciting and enchanting. But I've had a hard time getting my stories to people.

But after helping my friend on his Harvard application essay, I realized that it doesn't matter. Either fiction is not for me and I should move on and be happy with what is going well, or I need to dig deep for my own version of "sisu" to get through. I'm sure you can tell what I'm thinking.

I feel like I'm cross-country skiing through an endless forest where everything is the same and I'm trying to get somewhere different, somewhere new. I'm exhausted, and at times I feel greatly discouraged despite the moments when I sense the beauty of the challenges I'm going through. But someday, I will emerge to a stunning vista, the place I dream of. I don't know how long until I get there, but I will endure endlessly, the odds stacked against me, until I get there.

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