When you’re at a crossroads in business or your personal life, it’s easy to veer off in a direction you may later regret. We always have a choice between taking the path of principles over the shortcuts and inevitable dead ends of ego and making a quick buck at the expense of others. So which way do you take? Here’s a short guide to doing the right thing.

The Rotarians are known for their volunteer work and for giving back to the community. What is less known is the simple test that guides each Rotarian in their tasks. It’s called “The Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do”:

  • Is it the TRUTH?
  • Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  • Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Profound in its simplicity, the Test acts as the basis for decisions large and small, how to interact with others and live life.

At first glance, it seems unrealistic. How can a decision be fair to all, especially if it involves saying no to someone? And what is the truth? Today, it seems muddled with alternative facts, deception, and outright lies. Do we need to be friends with everyone we meet, especially in business? And surely, if something benefits one party, others must miss out.

These are all valid questions but taking a closer look at how this Four-Way Test works shows how useful it can be to keep us on track. 

Is it the TRUTH?

Truth can be subjective. We all see truth through individual lenses influenced by our upbringing, education, sources of information, and way of life. What might seem true to you could be the opposite in another’s opinion. Setting a date to deliver goods or services when you have no chance of meeting that deadline is not living the truth. The fact is you will be late. Be upfront, and you’ll build a reputation for delivering on time and as promised. “He/she is true to their word” is your aim.

Is it FAIR to all concerned?

Whether competing for business, making decisions, or deciding on a course of action, it seems impossible the outcome can be fair to everyone. Surely someone will lose out. Being fair doesn’t negate one person from gaining over others. It means that everyone involved gets heard and considered before a decision is made. For example, automatically awarding a contract to a long-time friend versus considering another talent interested in the job isn’t fair. You miss out on the opportunity to inject fresh ideas and approaches for the sake of comfort and possible complacency. In the end, you might still decide your personal contact is the best choice, but you’ve been fair in making that decision by objectively considering other options. 


We’ve all heard the saying, “Your reputation precedes you.” Positive opinions are built when goodwill is one of your foundations. Treat all people with respect, listen more and speak less, actively contribute to your community, be proactive instead of reactive and act with integrity – these lead to the side benefit of becoming known as a giver, not a taker. When we recognize each day brings a chance to practice being a better human being, relationships and business always take a positive turn. 

Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

A simple example: Is it beneficial to give your unsolicited opinion about a friend’s relationship? Or to chip in your two cents on whether someone should hire a specific company when you’ve never personally done business with them? Passing on hearsay and rumours makes us part of the problem. No one benefits. 

Life isn’t always easy. Adopting a consistent set of principles to support and guide you creates an avenue to follow in good times and challenges. 

Read more about the Rotarian’s Four-Way Test here.