One of the most asked questions about The Master Key System sounds silly, but it is not as silly as it sounds. The question is
How does one read The Master Key System?
You see, it does sound silly, until you realize that the book is divided into twenty-four chapters (weeks) and each chapter ends with an exercise, which Charles F. Haanel implores you to practice for a week or so.
The confusion about how to read this book comes from the fact that originally The Master Key System was a correspondence course of sorts. In his “General Instructions to Students”, Haanel wrote –
The Master Key System consists of twenty-four parts, names of students are placed on an addressing machine and one part is mailed each week. They go forward automatically, and cannot be sent more frequently nor can they be held back.
Haanel implored his students to read each part at least once per day until the next part arrived. Then –
… write the replies to the questions in the first part, cut off and mail to me.
The completion and the sending to Haanel of the questions at the end of each chapter was necessary. These papers were returned to the student “with the correct replies for comparison.”
It should also be noted that Haanel at this time did not sell a bound volume (book) of The Master Key System. One had to complete the correspondence course before a book of all the lessons would be sent.
The bound volume is never sold to any one at any price, unless they have completed the study and made payment in full.
So, should one, when first encountering The Master Key System, approach the book as directed by Haanel?
While Haanel’s method is good, I have found that in some ways the times have changed and a somewhat different method is required.
If a person is approaching the book for the first time, I encourage them to read through it just as if they were reading a novel or any other book. I tell them to go from cover to cover and read, don’t pay too much (if any) attention to doing the exercises, and just get acclimated to the work.
Once the person has done this, then – and only then – have I found that he or she is ready to actually study the book with an emphasis on the exercises.
In my experience, far too many begin studying the book before they are ready – and within a few chapters they find themselves burned out or worse … Bored. I’ve found that when a person reads through the book and becomes familiar with Haanel’s jargon and style, then that person sees where the book is headed. They don’t get caught up in the minutiae. They’re not “excited” about what’s coming next because they already know. They’ve got the gist of it and now they are ready to truly experience the book and the exercises.
Think of it this way: It’s much like going somewhere for the first time. When you get there that very first time, you basically want to do everything at once. Your mind is running a million miles per minute and you are constantly distracted by everything because it is all new to you. Thus, you miss out on a lot – and you never really enjoy yourself.
But by the second or third time going there, you get to know your way around. You are calmer. You know what to expect and what you are going to see, so you can keep your eyes open to what truly interests you. And you can take it all in calmly and decidedly.
If this is your fist experience with The Master Key System, then read it from cover to cover. See what it is about. Then, when you are ready, take the time to study it as Haanel instructed – going week by week, reading each lesson once per day for a week, and practicing the exercises.
Most of all, when you commit to studying it, don’t quit. Finish your study. The Master Key System is the most cogent system of study for developing your mental powers of concentration and visualization ever written. The real value in the book is not necessarily what Haanel wrote regarding his philosophy and metaphysics, it is in the exercises. Take your time with them and truly work to master them as best you can.
The Master Key System is a powerful book, but it must be approached properly. Take your time with it. There is no need to hurry. As I often say, you must keep in mind that this is a race of endurance, not speed.
Or as Haanel would put it-
If a part comes before you are ready for it, put it aside until you are ready. There is no occasion for haste.
There is no occasion for haste – only understanding.