The Forbidden Keys To Ruthlessness

“The First superficial exposure to Thick Face, Black Heart is often shocking and repellent because it can serve the sinner as well as the saint”

The book we will be talking about today, Thick Face, Black Heart, has a very weird sounding name (the meaning of which will be explained shortly) but don’t be put off by it, this book will show you something that not many books will talk about or even acknowledge as existing. That is your “killer instinct” and how to use it to your advantage.

But this is not an evil book, it is actually neutral and what you do with it’s contents is up to you

“One of the results of reading this book will be the shattering of your traditional concepts of ruthlessness. Thick Face, Black Heart is not about ruthlessness. you will learn that by adapting and adopting a form of non-destructive ruthlessness, you will gain the freedom necessary to achieve effective execution of your life’s tasks.”

In order to escape communism, the author Ching-Ning Chu, had to move countries twice (once from China and then from Taiwan). She carried with her only two books; Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War and a lesser known title called Thick Black Theory by Lee Zhong Wu, this book would have a major impact on Chu’s outlook on life and the human condition.

The book is described by Chu as a “frank discussion of the uses of ruthlessness and hypocrisy,” and that it challenged the powerful so much that it was quickly outlawed. It serves as the inspiration for Thick Face, Black Heart.

What Does “Thick Face” Even Mean?

Chu combined the Asian concept of Face (meaning to retain respect, and avoid humiliation) and the American concept of having “thick skin” to make “thick face,” that means thinking so highly of yourself that criticism slides off of you like water off a duck’s back. If you truly and honestly don’t care what anyone thinks of you, you’ll go far.

You teach people how you want to be treated by the way you carry yourself in the world, so if you have an “over-inflated ego,” — which wouldn’t be a bad thing for you all who are pushovers, you’d probably just turn out normal — people will naturally want to help you achieve your goals, and since you’re no longer perceived as self-doubting, you won’t be mistaken for an incompetent fool.

Chu gives an example of a man who never showed any self doubt at all when everything was on the line, his name was Oliver North and he was a Colonel during the Iran Contra Affair where the U.S. government got caught secretly selling weapons to Iran when there was an embargo.

Because Oliver North always reaffirmed that his actions were those of a patriot an not of a criminal, the public and the courts eventually believed him. “A man less convinced of his own righteousness would have been severely punished for his crimes and ostracized by the public.”

If you believe something about yourself so strongly, the world will be forced to believe it too.

What Does “Black Heart” Mean?

So if Thick Face is an internal strategy (how you see yourself), Black Heart is an external one (how you go about achieving your goals).

At first, the black hearted person may seem cold and callous but if you do not possess these qualities in some measure then you can’t succeed in life because you can’t make the hard decisions.

If you can’t fire a bad employee because “I can’t just do that to a person,” then congratulations your business has failed because it is full of bad employees who can’t do the work properly and good employees don’t want to work there anymore.

Sometimes to do the right thing, you will have to be seen as “the bad guy,” everyone has a “killer instinct,” it’s been evolved into us and it’s what allowed our ancestors to survive long enough to have children and provide for them.

We need to learn how to reconnect with this primal force in order to find success for ourselves and to provide for our families.

Sliding Scales

There are degrees to Thick Face Black Heartedness though so I’m not here to make it seem like this book is evil (or good).

Some people out there are willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want and they’ll step over people to reach the top, they simply do not care about who their actions affect.

This is the black heartedness of shysters and the immoral, eventually their character defects lead them to a circle of never ending failures.

A higher-minded level of black heart is reached when your actions are not driven by emotion or insecurities, it is driven by your true calling. The best surgeons are those who are aware that they must temporarily injure their patient (by cutting them open) in order to treat the more urgent affliction and eventually the patients quality of life becomes better.

They must be cold and cruel to be kind.

“Contrary to common understanding, a good man’s actions are not always gentle. They may be ruthless, cold, and dispassionate.”

Dark And Light

The universe is made of opposites:

And so on.

You have to utilize the side of yourself you find uncomfortable using if you want to live life to the fullest, if you seem too nice to other people then you might miss out on opportunities that require a tough person to handle.

If someone considers themselves to be righteous then it could lead to that person conducting witch trails on other people who don’t necessarily hold the same values.

The thick face, black hearted person knows that righteousness is a made up concept and what really matters is that they are courageous enough to express their full personality in work and life.

Lying For A Worthy Cause

Abraham Lincoln said he was pro-slavery all the way up until he was elected president and then he made his famous speech where he said all men are created equal.

In america, people think that things are either good or bad but in asia they see reality as shades of grey. You can learn the arts of deception and still not be a deceitful person.

To achieve something great and worthy it is very difficult to not have to bring deceit into the plans.


Dharma is a sanskrit word that means “to support, uphold, and nourish.” at the individual level, dharma means to follow your life’s path. For example, if you’re life’s calling is to be a singer then you shouldn’t be a waitress, if you’re life’s calling is to be a construction worker then you shouldn’t be a store clerk.

Once you commit yourself to your duty then the universe will help you on your path.

Adharma is the opposite of this and warns that if you stray from your path in life then you will only give yourself and the world misery.

Learning To Yield

Chu says that in order to survive and thrive among the ruthless and cunning, you must learn to yield. This means that a thick face, black hearted person will not immediately strike back when struck. They will accept the blow appearing to yield if it helps them achieve their ends.

Gandhi did this, when the British invaded India, he told everyone to protest nonviolently and the British eventually withdrew from the country.


The way wealth is written in Chinese is two symbols put together: A symbol for seashell, which in china is an ancient symbol for trade, and a symbol for “brilliance” in terms of individual talent or skill. So this means that wealth comes from selling what is unique about you, because your individual brilliance eventually leads you to wealth.

In Conclusion

Some people will be uncomfortable with the book’s content, and that means it may not be for everyone but overall I can say this books mix of eastern spirituality and ruthlessness will make a positive impact on your life if you choose to read it.

With it’s weird title and unconventional wisdom, Thick Face, Black Heart really stands out but only some basic ideas were shown here, you should really read it for the inspiring stories of leadership and endurance. The author also has great personal stories about her business and personal life.

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Originally published at on May 11, 2019.

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