About us

Feb 21, 2022

Sisu: Sustained courage

Rachel McCrickard, LMFT

CEO and Co-Founder

Last year, we hired a Chief Operating Officer at Motivo. I interviewed a lot of people and ultimately decided on Sarah Louragh — a super smart and incredibly driven leader, who previously worked at Airbnb. Sarah is the ying to my yang at Motivo. She’s strong in all the areas I’m not as strong — like operations, systems and processes, and pretty much anything involving an Excel spreadsheet. 😳

In her first few weeks, Sarah put together a little “About Me” presentation to share during our weekly team meeting. It was nothing fancy – just a little powerpoint sharing a bit about who she is, the identities and experiences that have shaped her, and the people and places she holds most dear.

We loved it so much that we decided to have each new employee do the same thing when they join Motivo. Since we are a fully remote team, these About Me’s help us feel more connected to one another and simulates some of the conversations we might be having around the proverbial water cooler.

This past week, one of our new sales directors, Liza Hadler, shared her About Me. Liza was born in the UP of Michigan – which I learned means “Upper Peninsula.” Liza’s family is from Finland and she identifies strongly with her Finnish heritage.  

Liza shared that one of the important aspects of her heritage is something called “Sisu.” Have you heard of sisu? I hadn’t, so I was super curious to hear what Liza had to tell us. She shared that sisu is a Finnish concept that means determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, and bravery.

Sisu is not momentary courage, but rather the ability to sustain that courage. It defines the Finnish people and their character and is deeply valued within the culture.

Any time I hear about a new concept or word, I like to read up on it a bit, so I looked up sisu and read that it is also defined as, “courage in situations where success is unlikely.”

I sat with that definition for a few minutes – courage in situations where success is unlikely. Early on in Motivo’s journey, I remember hearing (over and over again) that 90% of startups fail. That’s a pretty staggering statistic, isn’t it? I remember thinking, many times, “uhhh…there is absolutely no way that this is going to work.” There have been many times over the past few years where success has felt unlikely. 

When people ask me what made me take the leap into starting Motivo, I often point to a vivid memory of when I was driving in my car, trying to decide if I wanted to pursue Motivo full time. I remember thinking, “if I don’t try this, I’m going to always wonder what would have happened.”

It was a fleeting moment of courage – but it wasn’t sustained courage. It wasn’t sisu. Sisu, as I understand it, is what one develops through ongoing tenacity and resilience. It is determination despite setbacks. For Finnish people, it seems to be an inherent trait, with deep cultural roots. For non-Finnish people, it’s a concept I think we can draw inspiration from.

When I have hard days, days where success seems unlikely, I’m going to think about this concept of sisu – and try to tap into a place of inner strength, sustained courage and resilience against the odds.

How does the concept of sisu land with you today? I am confident that many of you are embarking on a journey that requires resilience, tenacity, and grit — Maybe you are building a private practice or studying hard for the licensure exam. Or maybe you are deep in the midst of parenting young children or caring for an aging parent.

Maybe hearing about sisu this morning will do for you what it did for me — which is to provide me with a new word to describe a quality I want to cultivate and strengthen within myself.

As always, if you have anything you’d like to share, I’d love to hear it.

Rachel McCrickard, LMFT
CEO/Co-Founder, Motivo

Each Monday, I’ll share my perspective on topics that mean a lot to me: growth, resilience, relationships, and leadership.

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