The Four-Way Test as a guide to daily life

One of the most widely known, oft-quoted statements in business ethics is The Four-Way Test. It was created by Herbert J. Taylor in 1932, when he was tasked to take charge of the Chicago-based Club Aluminum Company, which had declared bankruptcy and was about to be dissolved.

Studying ways to save the beleaguered company, Taylor wrote a 24-word code of ethics for its employees. It was called The Four-Way Test:

1. Is it the Truth?
2. Is it Fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships?
4. Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?

The Four-Way Test became the guide for sales, production, advertising and business relations with dealers and customers, and among the employees as well.

The company pulled through. Its survival was credited to following the simple philosophy governing “the things we think, say or do.”

Taylor — who became president of Rotary International in 1954- 55 — will forever be associated with The Four-Way Test, which Rotary adapted in 1943 as its moral code. It has been translated into more than 100 languages.

The short, direct and simple message is known and followed by the 1.4 million Rotarians around the world.

To the rest of humanity, the Four-Way Test can also serve as a guide to daily life. Nowadays, for instance, fake news and disinformation have become so prevalent. We need to constantly evaluate every piece of information we read and receive and refer to the Four-Way Test.

Rotarians try to place the Four-Way Test markers in the most visible places, from schools to markets to institutions, from company buildings to walls by the roadside.

We often take these small steps for granted, but collectively they create much impact in the communities. The Four-Way Test is much like the Golden Rule.

I am reminded of a little story by a friend.

“One day, I met this woman on my way to work. She approached me and asked if I could tell her the direction to a certain address. She appeared worried and agitated. I waited for her to share her story with me.

“As I guided her along the way, she told me that her mother had been placed by her older sister in a Home for the Aged. She wanted to see for herself if her mother was being handled properly.

“When we arrived at the facility, I just waited by the doorway as she entered and looked for her mother. They were finally able to reconnect, and when she felt assured that all was well, she thanked me profusely.

“What she told me struck a chord in my heart: ‘You were so caring to lead me to my mother. You believed what I told you and you even accompanied me to the building. Your kind gesture is much appreciated. I have been a victim of lies and much bullying. Your act of kindness has now proven to me that people are kind. I just need to trust.’”

When we take time to be kind, to listen and to be truthful, many good things happen that create a better world for us all.

Let’s make the Four-Way Test a way of life.

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