How to Test your Business and your Life in 4 Simple Ways

Posted by martin.parnell |

At last week’s Rotary meeting, three new members were inducted. It’s always a pleasure to see people take that first step on their Rotary journey. From now on, they, along with all Rotarians, are required to observe certain traditions, one of them being to join in with the reciting of what is known as “The Four-Way Test.”

The story behind the Four-Way Test begins with Herbert J. Taylor. It was in 1932 that Taylor was appointed President of a Chicago cookware distribution company, Club Aluminum Products. His main task was to save the company from bankruptcy. He believed himself to be the only person in the company of 250 employees who had hope. His recovery plan started with changing the ethical climate of the company. 

Taylor gave this explanation as to how he would achieve his goal: “The first job was to set policies for the company that would reflect the high ethics and morals God would want in any business. If the people who worked for Club Aluminum were to think right, I knew they would do right. What we needed was a simple, easily remembered guide to right conduct - a sort of ethical yardstick- which all of us in the company could memorize and apply to what we thought, said and did.

I searched through many books for the answer to our need, but the right phrases eluded me, so I did what I often do when I have a problem I can't answer myself: I turn to the One who has all the answers. I leaned over my desk, rested my head in my hands and prayed. After a few moments, I looked up and reached for a white paper card. Then I wrote down the twenty-four words that had come to me:    

  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?

I called it "The Four-Way Test" of the things we think, say or do."

So, how did The Four-Way Test become part of Rotary?

In the 1940s, Taylor was appointed an International Director of Rotary. He offered the Four- Way Test to the organization, and it was adopted by Rotary for its internal and promotional use. Taylor gave Rotary International the right to use the test and the copyright in 1954. He retained the rights to use the test for himself, his Club Aluminum Company and the Christian Workers Foundation. Since then, the twenty four word test remains a central part of the permanent Rotary structure and is held as the standard by which all behaviour should be measured.

But it’s not just Rotary that has recognized the test as a measure of good behaviour. The Four-Way Test has been adopted and promoted around the world and is used in myriad forms to encourage personal and business ethical practices. For example: NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin planted a Four-Way Test pin on the Moon’s surface. 

The Four-Way Test has appeared in gymnasiums, courtrooms, and labour contracts. The Ghanaian judicial system displays the test is on billboards in court premises in Ghana.  Today, the test appears on highway billboards, in schoolrooms and halls of government, and on the walls of businesses the world over.

And it’s not just with businesses and other organizations that The Four-Way Test has been used and promoted. Some Rotary clubs have encouraged its use in schools as a learning tool and have had an excellent response through the essays and other projects done by the students, based on its principals.

The Four-Waytest can be applied to almost any aspect of life. It is a measure of honesty and fairness. On a broader scale, it can be used to promote fellowship, community spirit and concern for others.

It may only consist of twenty-four words, but The Four-Way Test is something for us all to live by.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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