To celebrate, I am sharing a list of all of the definitions I have collected over the past year in my attempt to better understand this word and how it relates to what I am made of and who I am. The definitions below are shared in no particular order and were provided by teens, adults, and seniors in Fairport Harbor (Ohio), as well as Lapua, Kauhava, Helsinki and Turku (Finland), as a part of story circles and interviews. Some were even collected on the backs of little red wooden houses in honor of my mom. You can read her story here.
The "Day of SISU" is part of a global initiative called "Year of SISU" spearheaded by Emilia Lahti of SISU LAB. She is a brilliant researcher who has been writing about "sisu" in terms of psychological capacity. She is leading an inaugural event in Helsinki today at Korjaamo that will put "sisu" on the Finnish calendar for the first time in 500 years! She has also encouraged people to host sisuesque gatherings all over the world. If you are in Los Angeles, please join us tonight at Chekov Studio International for a story circle about "sisu" and the creative process. And, if you really get into the concept (which I hope you will) there will also be an "Hour of SISU" on March 10th during which Emilia encourages you to do one thing that you know would benefit you, but which you have been putting off.
You can learn more about all of this by searching: #SISU2015 and #HourofSISU, following Emilia on Twitter at @EmiliaLahti or checking out the blog.
One more thing -- before or after you read the list below, I highly suggest that you check out Emilia's TedX Talk or this Q&A on her blog to help put it all into context.
Yksi. . . kaksi. . . kolme. . . and here we go!
What DOES "SISU" MEAN TO YOU?
Not being a sissy
"Never give up, even when things go wrong"
Mental and physical strength (2x)
Salmiaki (a brand of Finnish licorice candy, see photo example below)
"Do what you want and you don’t have to listen to other people’s opinions"
One who never quits when the pressure is on
"Uh. . . something to do with the Winter War"
"Sisu = to survive from war"
"The gap between waking up and making coffee"
Not giving up
Courage no matter what
"Go" (from Google Translate)
Being afraid but saddling up anyway...
"Keep on going"
elama on kuolema ja kuolema on elama (Finnish for - Life is death, and death is a life)
Having a tough it out mentality
It's a way to say - "Hide your feelings, don't cry, harden yourself. . . and other equally stupid things. No wonder [Finland is] at the top of the suicide list. . ."
Finnish heavy metal
Overcoming all odds / Persevering against the odds
"It’s like discovering that you have a jetpack on your back when you are on your way down"
A sparkle of belief that I can get through anything
Power from within
"Crossing the ocean and starting a new life"
"4 against 400"
"All my feelings reflected in a crooked hat"
"What an Olympic athlete has"
"When you decide something needs to be done"
Being strong at the face of weakness
"To a child it is almost like a superpower, to an adult it becomes a way of life"
"The letters on my license plate"
Walking 12 miles to work
"Having the courage and determination to overcome obstacles that you never thought were possible"
Sitkeys (Finnish word for "staying power")
"Coping with whatever comes up 'cause you never know what surprises are around the corner"
Taking what life hands you
"It's a word runners know very well"
"Being afraid of going into battle but doing it anyways. . ."
"A yellow bird toy found in the streets of Turku on November"
"Pushing a plow through the hard ground whether it is clay or sand"
"My late father"
Working until the work is done
"S = See and strive for your I = Inner S= Strength and U = Use it"
Tenacity of purpose
"That glimmer from within that drives you to juggle more than you ever dreamed imaginable, with and open heart and a smile"
"Similar to Churchill's - Keep Calm and Carry On"
"That raw strength you draw from so that no matter what may lay ahead, stopping is not an option until you have given all that is within . . . "
"In a way it is patriotic. It shows pride, belonging, it implies for the "good" and leans toward success or accomplishment, although I'm not sure it matters if success is achieved, so much as that the integrity of purpose is upheld and honor is retained"
"It is what pushes humanity forward in our darkest hour, blazing new trails where once all we could see were insurmountable obstacles" (from Saad, Emilia's better half, who also adds - "To me Sisu holds a special place because it is embodied by a special human being, one who I am honored to call my wife")
"Deep inner yearning and drive to not only persevere through challenges, but through life itself"
"It's what my husband has - he is Afghan"
"Digging deep to find the inner resources and strength to get the job done"
Potato picking spirit - a female arm wrestler with the ability to pick potatoes for hours without giving up.
* This is the one that would always make my mom laugh every time, and I'm pretty sure she would have also loved the one about the jet pack!
If you have a definition or an idea about "sisu" that isn't on the list, I'd love to hear it. Please add it in the comment section below or send an email to: SISUisintheHeart@gmail.com. I'll also be crafting a post in the near future titled, "Where I get my SISU", in order to share some of the longer reflections that were sent it. Many thanks to everyone who participated!
Much love and sisu to all of you today,
A) Finnish candy
B) Park's first time in a cold lake after a sauna with his great long lost uncle, Antti.