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Why sisu?

“Yes, sisu, that untranslatable, indispensable Finnish concept, a combination of physical, mental and spiritual stamina, a going inwards to a core of strength in the face of solitary adversity.”
‘The Arctic Oz’ by Guy Rundle
Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend, February 23, 2008

No matter how bumpy my life trajectory has been, if I look hard I can see a thread of quiet determination, a solitary commitment to keep on going. These days we might call it resilience. There is Finnish word with more depth and texture – sisu.

Sisu – a definition

“Everyone was doing more than their best,” Jørn Utzon, the Danish architect responsible for the Sydney Opera House, told writer Geraldine Brooks in 2006. “How can you express this? I asked a Finnish carpenter, and he said the word in Finnish is sisu – the desire for something extra that you can pull out of yourself.” Doing more than one’s best calls on an amalgam of hope, skill and imagination, especially when faced with personal and collective challenges. It’s often a process of discovery, a path, an ongoing project…and, if it involves something of lasting value, it invariably calls on sisu.

Hence, Project Sisu, an umbrella term for work and life that means:

  • finding that something extra when it’s needed
  • noticing what is happening inside, around us, and over the horizon
  • swimming against the tide if we have to, and knowing when to swim with it
  • designing new ways of working with others to get things done.