Sisu is a Finnish word that cannot be translated metaphrastically into the English language, loosely translated to mean stoic determination, bravery, guts, resilience, perseverance and hardiness, expressing the historic self-identified Finnish national character. Sisu is about taking action against the odds and displaying courage and resoluteness in the face of adversity. Deciding on a course of action and then sticking to that decision against repeated failures is Sisu.

I’d always pondered about the differences between “sisu” and “being stubborn”, and concluded that the difference lies in whether the results are worth it. For instance, if a Finnish person does a marathon and keeps at it without stopping the run halfway, he has “sisu” and is not “being stubborn”. Because there is a personal growth here.

However, if a person who is obviously bad at Mathematics sticks to Mathematics as a major and keeps failing, then he is being stubborn because his true talent might be in Art. So his opportunity cost is high as he spends a lot of time on Math when he could have better channeled those limited time into polishing his arts skills.

Having said that, have you ever paused to consider the antonym of “sisu”?

I used to think that the opposite of “sisu” is “fickle-mindedness”.

But today, I suddenly realised that the opposite of “sisu” might well be “having no common sense”.


It totally changes the paradigm huh? If the opposite of “sisu” is “being fickle minded”, it shows that this person has a lot of things in life he/she wants to do–his/her challenge is simply a need to focus.

If however, the opposite of “sisu” is “having no common sense”–“common” defined as not knowing what the current world/ market is like, not being up to date with current trends, living in one’s own world 10-20years ago…then his/her challenge is infinitely greater than the need to focus. Because in this scenerio, he/she needs to first get out of denial.

Now, people usually don’t like to get out of their bubbles or comfort zones. You tell them they’re in denial, they shoot you. Q.E.D.

And hey, whether one has basic “common sense” or not can be validated by results and numbers. It’s not a voodoo vague term like “best”, “top”, “exemplary”–terms basically used by people who are somewhat suspicious.

Look at the numbers, folks. Numbers never lie.

People, on the other hand, lie all the time.