By Allerton, Haidee E.
Training & Development , Vol. 52, No. 4
TWO STRATEGIC THINKERS AND AUTHORS, WHO WILL SPEAK AT ASTD'S INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE NEXT MONTH, TALK HERE ABOUT THE FUTURE. ONE DESCRIBES SOME POWERFUL FORCES THAT WILL CHANGE HOW WE LIVE AND WORK; THE OTHER EXPLAINS HOW WESTERNERS CAN WIELD THE WISDOM OF AN ASIAN PHILOSOPHY, THICK BLACK THEORY, TO FORGE THEIR CAREERS AND LIVES.
Thick Face, Black Heart: The Path to Thriving, Winning & Succeeding
The book derives from Thick Black Theory, an ancient Chinese philosophy that some people might liken to Machiavellianism or Ayn Rand's self-interest and objectivism in The Fountainhead. But not so fast. Chu proposes that some seemingly negative qualities need not be destructive but can be an inner path to success in life-affirming work.
Allerton: Your book is complex, and I think it requires more than one reading to understand.
Chu: I've had letters from readers who said that they read it five times. "That's nothing," I'd laugh. Someone wrote that he read it 27 times.
Allerton: Don't people tend to react negatively to the idea that being selfish, deceptive, or ruthless can have positive outcomes?
Chu: Not really. The book uses the word ruthless but explains the concept. If you use that word here, it will be misunderstood. I'm saying that sometimes people have to be hard on others to be kind. We should be more truthful and protect our own interests. That will help against others' ruthlessness.
People should also not be influenced by artificial standards. For example, there was a master chef who kept making pancakes that weren't exactly round, calling them "perfect." His frustrated apprentice pointed out that the pancakes weren't perfect. Still, the master kept making pancakes that weren't round and calling them perfect.
Well, who said that pancakes have to be round? The stomach digests them just the same. We have tons of manmade standards that are just as ridiculous.
Allerton: The Hindu-Buddhist concept of karma has been popularized to mean doing the right things so we can get into heaven. How is dharma different, and should we be more concerned about having "good dharma"?
Chu: Dharma produces good karma. The smarter you are, the more dangerous you are; the more strategy you use, the more manipulative you are - unless you use dharma, which is also doing the right thing. It's integrity, but according to the situation. A soldier who kills the enemy is doing the right thing.
Allerton: What essential point from your book should people keep in mind about dharma with respect to their careers?
Chu: They should incorporate spirituality, not a religious standard but [a person's] relationship with [his or her] creator. People should make spirituality work as a business tool.
Allerton: What would be an example?
Chu: A salesperson's dharma is to be detached from the fruit - his commission - and think of the customer's needs. Let heaven take care of the fruit. Our job is to do our jobs. …