The One Thing You Need to Recession-Proof Yourself: Hard Work

I’ve been publishing, coaching, and writing about The Master Key System and Haanel’s philosophy of success for quite a while now. I’ve been reading and researching much, much longer. One thing I’ve noticed  is that when I say the words ‘hard work’, a veritable shit storm ensues. People fight me (and those words) with all of their being. Here are a few examples that you may have heard once or twice in the past.

“If you’re doing it right,” they say, “then you won’t need to work hard.” (In the meantime, this rocket scientist doesn’t have two nickels to rub together. I guess he’s not “doing it right”, whatever “it” is.)

“The only thing hard work ever got for my father was a sore back!” (And his pension. And the money for your college education. It probably got you and your family an annual vacation and a new car every few years. It put clothes on your back and an allowance into your pocket. In other words, if YOU would just STFU, then maybe – just maybe! – you’ll become half as successful as your father.)

“I don’t work hard … I work smart!” (So says the people who generally don’t work hard ever. And they really aren’t all that smart either.)

Now, when I say ‘hard work’, I’m not necessarily talking about digging ditches. (Although, if you need a ditch dug, then I guess it would apply.) I’m talking about the work and effort needed when accomplishing anything worth getting, such as starting a business, attaining a high degree of education, raising a family, learning a new skill, and other such tasks.

In The Master Key System, Haanel asked a successful business man of his generation named James J. Hill what the ‘secret’ to his success was. Hill’s response was

“Work. Hard work. And more work.”

He is talking about all of the time, effort, thought, and skill he used to create his empire. Not to mention the physical aspect as well.

Even today, when you research the successful of whatever field, you will find that every one of them credits their success to hard work.

Now, why do so many who read Haanel and other personal development books recoil from those words? 

Haanel’s philosophy in an nutshell is that all things come from first a thought of an individual, which when imbued with feeling compels the individual to action that manifests that thought (idea) into reality. I use the word ‘manifest’ here not in the bastardized sense it is used today by many gurus, the sense of something falling into reality through some sort of spontaneous genesis. I use it the way Haanel and other like minds use it: to bring one’s thoughts and ideas into reality – a form of expression much like if a person loves someone they might bring them flowers to show their feelings.

In Haanel’s philosophy, though, there is a call to action – to take the plunge and perform hard work. In Week 23, Haanel asks

What is the first law of success?

His answer


Service is an action and usually entails hard work, whether that be mental or physical. Haanel makes the point that it’s the man who thinks the most and biggest and grandest thoughts and who takes the biggest and most onerous responsibilities that will reap the biggest rewards. You can read into that that the business of thinking is indeed hard work.

So now I ask you, if you are one who recoils from those words ‘hard work’, then why is that? What leads you to believe that you can get what you desire by doing nothing other than reciting affirmations or something of the kind?

Having a positive mental attitude and a good mindset are important to have. What is more important, though, is your ability – your motivation – to get up and get the job done.

Now, I don’t know if we’re heading into tough economic times. I don’t pay much mind to things like that. I do what I gotta do – and it really is as simple as that. What I do know is that whether the times are tough or the living is easy, three things have never failed to make fortunes:

  1. Hard work done intelligently
  2. Getting the job done well
  3. Serving the greatest number in whatever you do

By living those three basic tenets every day, you can for all intents and purposes recession-proof your life. The world always has room for people who aren’t afraid of rolling up their shirt sleeves and putting in a solid eight. And in every economy, good or bad, those people not only survive – they thrive!


  1. Nice article, Tony – glad you’re not afraid to address two four-letter words!

    Here’s the “phrase that pays”: consistent efforts over a period of time.

    If you want to earn a black belt in Karate, you can’t do it in “7 easy steps”. You have to show up to class again and again. You have to face difficulty and pain. You have to show to class even when you don’t feel like it.

    Over time those efforts add up. You advance even when you feel like you’re going backwards or are hitting a plateau.

    You don’t even have to “be focused” to get a black belt – you just have to show up, keep learning, keep trying, keep working at the Katas and techniques.

    You rise through the ranks by small efforts that add up over time, and eventually, you reach the level of a black belt.

    But, keep in mind, the word for black belt in Japanese is “Shodan” which roughly means “new beginning” and is considered the very start of true Karate mastery, not the end-goal!

    Now, get back to work!

    David Portney
    Academy of Public Speaking

  2. Dave says:

    Tony – thanks for the great posts. This one is a keeper and I will refer to it often along with your past article on your thoughts about “The Secret”. I appreciate your honest writing. You don’t pull any punches. Great job. – Dave

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