Rotary 4-way Test
The Rotary 4-Way Test: Is this the most sensible guideline ever devised 
By Dave Eshleman
I am a former President of The Saratoga Rotary Club and I have been a Rotarian for over 20 years, one of about 1.2 million service-minded Rotarians worldwide. The more I learn about the great things Rotary has done over the decades, the more impressed I become. 
But there is one Rotary guiding principle that stands out: The Rotary 4-Way Test:
Of the things we think, say, or do:
  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it help build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
The test was created in 1932 by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor when he was asked to take charge of a failing company. As Taylor explained it “the company was a distributor of cookware and other household items that owed its creditors over $400,000 more than its total assets. It was bankrupt but still alive.”
“While we had a good product, our competitors also had fine cookware. Our company had some fine people working for it, but so did our competitors. We felt that we must develop something which our competitors would not have in equal amount. We decided that it should be the character, dependability, and service mindedness of our personnel. We felt that we needed a simple measuring stick of ethics which everyone in the company could quickly memorize. We also felt that the proposed test should not tell our people what they must do, but ask them questions that would make it possible for them to find out whether their proposed plans, policies, statements, or actions were right or wrong.”
Once the four-way test was put to paper, Taylor put it under the glass top of his desk and tried to follow it. It was a very discouraging experience, he recalled. ‘I almost threw it into the wastepaper basket the first day when I checked everything that passed over my desk with the first question: Is it the truth? I never realized before how many untruths appeared in our company’s literature, letters and advertising. We decided to eliminate any statements in our advertising that could not meet the standard of truth. All superlatives, such as the better, best, greatest and finest disappeared.  We also eliminated all detrimental comments on our competitors’ products. As a result, the public gradually placed more confidence in what we stated in our advertisements and literature. When we had an opportunity to speak well of our competitors, we did so. Thus we gained the confidence and friendship of our competitors.”
So what effect did the four way test (along with hard work) have on the bankrupt company? It eventually realized an increase in sales, paid off its debts, paid its stockholders over a million in dividends, and had (in the 1930s) a value of over $2 million. 
Rotary International adopted the test in 1943, and it has since been translated into 100 different languages. I wonder if a simpler, more straightforward, concise, or useful set of guidelines has ever been created. Can you imagine if everyone lived by this code? Every politician, every business leader, every journalist, every religious leader, every advertiser?  It boggles the mind to consider how different our world would be.
Lying is nothing new. We’ve been doing it to each other since the beginning of time. There are many reasons to lie, but most of them boil down a need for greater power and resources. But the benefits are short-lived. The truth eventually rises to the surface, and the liars are discredited. But what if we took the long view? What if we saw that truthful and constructive dealings eventually win the prize? It worked for a bankrupt cookware company in 1932, and it can work for our nation and our world today.