In November 1939 the Soviet Union invaded Finland with an army of nearly half a million men. They outnumbered the Finns more than 3-1 but worse than that, the Soviet Union had 6,000 tanks and 4,000 aircraft. The Finns had 32 tanks and 114 aircraft. Against overwhelming odds and in brutal winter conditions where the temperature was frequently – 40 degrees, the Finns relied on a part of their culture called Sisu. The word has no direct translation in English but as a concept it means continuing to act even in the face of overwhelming odds and in spite of every failure and setback. It is about perseverance beyond the limits of physical and mental endurance. Despite the insane odds, the Finns fought the Soviets to a standstill, inflicting over 300,000 casualties, almost five times the number the Soviets inflicted on the Finns.
Sisu is really about grit, the ability to persevere despite setbacks in pursuit of a goal. In life to achieve anything difficult, challenging or worthwhile we all need sisu & the start of the year is always a good time to reflect on our goals and the struggle we should prepare for. President Calivin Coolridge had it right when he observed:
‘Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.Talent will not; nothing is more common than the unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent’.