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Rotary's 4-Way Test



When I was growing up, my father was a member of the Rotary club of Claremont. He only talked about Rotary on two occasions. The first was every Friday night when he'd entertain us with the latest joke he'd heard at his club meeting that day. Most were really bad puns and become known in our family as "Dad's Rotary jokes."


The other time he brought up Rotary was when we'd done something wrong. Then, he'd recite the Four-Way Test. All of us kids learned it at an early age.


Here's the origin story.

The Four-Way Test was originally created in 1932 by Herbert J. Taylor, a Chicago Rotarian and president of Rotary International in 1954-55. He had applied The Four-Way Test to the operation of his company, Club Aluminum Products Company, with remarkable results and subsequently shared it with others.


The Four-Way Test is a simple set of principles that can be used to guide our thoughts, words, and actions in all areas of our lives. It is a test of the things we think, say or do, and asks us to consider whether they are:

  • Is it the truth?

  • Is it fair to all concerned?

  • Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

  • Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

The Four-Way Test has been translated into more than 100 languages and is used by Rotarians and others around the world as a moral code for personal and business relationships. Some, like PDG Greg Owen of Long Beach Rotary, have incorporated into their business contracts. It is a simple but powerful guide to living a more ethical and fulfilling life.

Here is how the Four-Way Test came into being, in Taylor's own words:

"Back in 1932 I was assigned, by the creditors of the Club Aluminum Products Company, the task of saving the company from being closed out as a bankrupt organization. The company was a distributor of cookware and other household items. It had been in business for 25 years, but it was now in serious financial trouble.
I knew that I had to do something drastic if I was going to save the company. So I called all of the employees together and told them that we were going to have to change the way we did business. I said that from now on, everything we did was going to be based on four questions:
Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
I called these questions the Four-Way Test. I told the employees that if we could answer yes to all four questions, then we would be doing the right thing.
The employees were skeptical at first, but they agreed to give it a try. And to my surprise, it worked! Within a few months, the company was out of debt and on its way to becoming profitable again.
The Four-Way Test has been a part of my life ever since. I use it in my business, in my personal relationships, and in my community work. It's a simple but powerful guide to living a more ethical and fulfilling life."

The Four-Way Test is a valuable tool that can help us to make better decisions in all areas of our lives. It is a reminder and touchstone.


And it helps me remember my Dad.

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