The Hewers of Wood and The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel
The Hewers of Wood and The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel

Hewers of Wood and The Master Key System

In the Questions & Answers section of The Master Key System, Charles F. Haanel wrote about “hewers of wood,” or those who do what today we call “manual labor.” He posed this question:

“Unless we are willing to think we shall have to work, and the less we think the more we shall work, and the less we shall get for our work.” Is it possible to conceive of a world in which there are no “hewers of wood?”

Simply put, Mr. Haanel is asking if there can ever be a world without people who dig ditches or work the counter at McDonald’s?

In other words, what if everyone succeeded at doing what they wanted to do? Who would do the “grunt work”?

Here is how Haanel addressed the question.

Thought has taken much drudgery out of work, but much so-called “scientific management” and “efficiency and engineering systems” look upon millions of human beings as mere machines capable of making so many motions less or more per hour.

To labor is to serve and all service is honorable. But a “hewer of wood” contemplates blind service instead of intelligent service. Labor is the creative instinct in manifestation. Owing to the changes which have taken place in the industrial world, the creative instinct no longer finds expression. A man cannot build his own house, he cannot even make his own garden, he can by no means direct his own labor. He is therefore deprived of the greatest joy which can come to man, the joy of achieving, of creating, of accomplishing, and so this great power is perverted and turned into destructive channels. He can construct nothing for himself so he begins to destroy the works of his more fortunate fellows. Labor is however, finding that the Universe is not a chaos but a cosmos, that it is governed by immutable laws, that every condition is the result of a cause and that the same cause invariably produces the same effect. It is finding that these causes are mental, that thought predetermines action. It is finding that constructive thought brings about constructive conditions and destructive thought brings about destructive conditions.

The key here is “blind service instead of intelligent service.” This goes beyond the old bromide “Work smarter, not harder.” Here, Haanel is urging people — you! — to think.

In other words, your mission is to think and be creative rather than to follow blindly.

Learning to think is one of the main skills you should acquire from studying The Master Key System. And thinking does not consist of merely following a recipe or dictums. It consists of seeing things anew and expressing yourself through your work.

Thus, Haanel defines labor as the “creative instinct in manifestation.”

Instinct. It’s what drives you. It’s what produces the things around you.

Everything begins with a thought. It doesn’t end there. That is just the beginning because “thought predetermines action.” If our thoughts be constructive, then the results will be constructive as well.

Those who don’t follow their creative instincts become those who tear down the works of others. This sounds suspiciously similar to a sociologist named Emile Durkheim, much of whose work was based on man’s separation from the things around him, or anomie.

Haanel is imploring us to be creative outlets and to work and service intelligently in whatever capacity that we can.

Can there ever be a world without those “hewers of wood”?

Maybe. Sometimes, you need to become a hewer of wood to learn a new skill. Then, once you learned it, you can take it in a new direction.

You will become a creator.

Read these books because you like creating things.