SISU The Finnish Art of Courage by Joanna Nylund – Book Entry

Since the early 1920s Finnish people have been using SISU to rise above the tides. Now, they are inviting the rest of the world to share their much-beloved secrets.

On March 18th, 2022 a new list of happiness index will be out and many are waiting to see if it is again ‘Finland’? The Nordic countries have been on the top 10 list for years now. Though there are many reasons behind anointing a country with the happiest in the world crown, the world is impressed with 4 times ranked number 1 – Finland.

Photo by Nikola Johnny Mirkovic on Unsplash

I am on the journey of figuring out the mystery and my digging led me to this wonderful book. Here is my book entry for SISU – The Finnish Art of Courage by Joanna Nylund

Why Should You Read It?

  1. You have googled this exact term many times- ‘why is Finland the happiest country in the world’.
  2. You are a cultural enthusiast, like me.
  3. You are looking for new ways to enhance your daily life.
  4. You are Finnish and want to see if the world is getting closer to your secret?

My Inkling for picking this book

During my research, I found many insights into why Finland is the happiest country. And, this one word was a common occurrence: SISU. What intrigued me was that it was not something we can buy and feel like we are on the path to happiness. Instead, SISU is and can be a way of life for long-term sustained happiness. 

I know it is definitely not the topmost reason why the people from Finland are the happiest in the world. But having SISU does make you face life with spirit when it is not happy. Writer Joanna Nylund wrote this book SISU: The Finnish Art of Courage to let everyone know about this amazing concept. We all have brought many candles in the name of Hygge and now let us find some SISU. By the end of it, you will be able to answer- is Finland really the happiest country in the world?

My Top 5 entries for this book

 1) SISU is not a copyright of Finnish people –

Joanna writes in her book, SISU is no one thing and has no direct translation in the English language. It is rather a combination of several attributes that we see in the time of need aka courage, strength, endurance, and grit. She mentions in the book that SISU is not a copyright of Finnish people. We all have courage in us and we all do use it from time to time. Like I ran my first 5k while knowing that my back is not recovered. I wanted to run so I called my SISU. Then why has she written a book on courage? Finnish people recognize the strength of SISU much more than most of us. This is more like a practical life hack that they use to call upon their storage of willpower. The book takes you through many aspects of life where SISU is applied.

2) The History of Finland and SISU

Finland fought the tough Winter War in (1939-1940) against a very large Soviet army but managed to mount a resistance to remain independent. Finland is also a country that sees harsh winters for the most part of the year. On other hand, they are famous for cold dipping in ice water, going for summer cabins that are rustic, and having a lack of basic amenities. 

Photo by fox jia on Unsplash

If you think about it, Finns have done a great job in recognizing this inner strength that we all have but often fail to summon in times of need.

Having one word that sums up the inner courage, grit, determinants are far more effective than telling someone to be brave or be courageous. One needs a lot more than bravery to step out of an abusive relationship and go out for a daily morning walk when it’s pouring snow. Saying in-breath, c’mon call your SISU, makes us see the power of self when we most need that.

3) Well-Being The SISU Way

Well-being is a big industry right now yet that same industry is the cause of stress in most people. As per the book, one concept of wellbeing in Finland is the power of silence. She writes ‘Finn’s view silence as a resource, not an embarrassment. It takes a wise person to shut up if they don’t have anything of value to say. 

Being in nature is also a SISU way of life. Who would argue that being in nature is not good for them? We all know how great we feel after spending some time in thick forests, mountains, or near a waterbody. Having SISU means going to nature – doesn’t matter the weather.

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing

Alfred Wainwrigh

Personal Story – Last month, we both went to Catskills and hiked a couple of trails. The trails were the easiest ones due to my back which is in recovery right now. Due to a snowstorm a day ago, the trails were completely empty (most of the time) and this gave us so much more alone time with nature. We both basked in the snow sun and explored nooks and crannies through slippery snow trails. We felt like we were missing this all this time without even realizing that we were missing this. Keeping in the spirit of Nordic culture, I picked this cute little pine flower as my kitty for foraging.

4) Finnish Childhood & Childcare make me wanna go back to my childhood and do the right things

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The Finnish school system is famous for being the best in the world. Not only is education free but it’s also very different from the rest of the world. The education system has made me such a big fan of the Finns that I am writing a full piece on that.  A few concepts from Joanna’s book are worth mentioning here.

Joanna gave a sort of rule book for raising kids with SISU. There are several small things that will not only make children more independent but will also create a great workforce for the future. Things like giving realistic praise (which has a deeper concept behind it), learning from mistakes rather than punishing them, and enjoying doing the hard things. Finns also encourage a healthy work ethic by giving them chores around the house to instill independence from an early start. And we all know by now the Finnish nuggets on letting kids be.

5) The Equal Force Of Finland

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

During many instances in the book, I was thinking, how is it working there? The big reason was that the way of living is equal in Finland. Men, Women, Kids, Boss, Employees, Ministers – everyone is the same. There is a table for everyone in the family and working life. Main things that I loved from this aspect of Fins SISU –

Do not keep tabs in relationships – This will create a relationship of mistrust. Rather play by your strength. If a woman is good at cooking then she should do that and if a man is better at daycare then he should do that. There is no one role waiting for anyone.

The five techniques of suppression we must avoid:  – Making someone feel invisible by ignoring them, Ridiculing Someone, Withholding information from someone, Double Bind ( punishing someone regardless of what they do) & Heaping blame( embarrassing someone). Sadly this summed up my early life experience very well. Anyone else feels like this ( raising hand ).

The extra point worth mentioning is the colorful pages in the book. It keeps you excited with lovely illustrations, real pictures of Finns, and a very light-hearted presentation. 

I recommend this book for everyone who is looking for ways to improve their life. There is more to why Finland is so happy. Wait for my next article for more scoop on this secret.

I hope you enjoy reading SISU. Don’t forget to leave me your thoughts in the comments.

3 Responses

  1. Fun article. I’ve been to Norway, but never to Finland. Had a great time reading it. I don’t associate reindeer with something that actually exists in the real world, so it was fun to see the picture!

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