Entrepreneurship is all about being bold and badass enough to traverse unknown terrain, to see beyond one’s perceived capacities and to take risks, all while being flexible and tolerating uncertainty. It is about bending but not breaking. All these are also qualities of sisu (which is an age-old Finnish term for indomitable will, determination, resoluteness and rationality in the face of adversity). Sisu begins where your perseverance ends. Furthermore, it is a universal quality which we all share.
Depending on the individual´s mindset, any event can be seen either as an opportunity or an obstacle, and the person’s attitude greatly influences the actions taken as a result. I think that cultivating sisu, at its deepest level, is about awakening potential and igniting hope. It is about seeing into what might be, beyond what Aristotle describes as our actual reality and its limitations. Instead of stopping where we feel our abilities end, we push through the pain barrier. This barrier might be fear, uncertainty, physical pain or lack of trust in oneself, among many other such limits.
As we step past this boundary, we redefine it as a frontier –what could have been the end has become the beginning. In this way, sisu serves as a hugely empowering tool with the potential to create massive change. This is something that is in the heart of every new, bold act, and is also what entrepreneurship is all about.
How far are we capable of going? We simply do not know before we are stretched a bit. Challenges and adversities act as a catalyst for growth and change while more comfortable times are conducive to healing and restoring balance. Our biologically programmed tendency to preserve energy leads to a bias for stability at the expense of exploring opportunities to develop ourselves, to expand and stretch our action repertoire. An adversity or challenge interrupts our usual routine and propels us to seek out new solutions. As a matter of fact, although the recent Nokia deal may come as a shock to some, it also offers tremendous opportunity for Finland. It is even said to be one of the best things that has happened to the country in a long time.
The age-old strength capacity of sisu can power us to transform challenges into opportunities, turn barriers into frontiers – therefore building a bridge toward our best future self; as individuals as well as a nation. Dr. Lauri Järvilehto wrote in his recent blog post (just days before the Nokia bomb), that it is time to turn Finland into an exemplar of ‘engagement economy‘ [innostustalous], which means to be driven by passion, purpose and meaning for tasks which are personally significant. This then contributes to the economic well-being of the whole of society. Aspiring toward such future requires serious efforts in creating an environment where it is safe to experiment (and fail), and where curiosity, vision and ideas are encouraged, welcomed and nurtured. A place where entrepreneurialism is held in reverence along with qualities such as integrity, valor, determination and courage, which are all constituents of sisu.
Wishing us all happy Finnish Entrepreneurship Day (it is still Friday the 5th where I am typing)! Curious to see what bold acts we take, now that we can’t rely on Nokia’s economic safety net. Exciting times ahead, now let’s rock it!