The Four Way Test

2021 Contest Essay Winner: Tyler Kim

Decisions are deeply rooted in every human life. Whether it’s as basic as getting food or as contemporary as scrolling through social media, citizens of society have always made occasionally influential decisions that affect many lives. For most of the world’s population, personal and overall benefits are the potent driving forces behind these decisions. Herbert Taylor sought to improve this reality by creating the Four-Way Test. Not only attempting to save his company but also to create a brighter reality, Taylor wielded the power of the pen, writing a twenty-four-word examination of simple and complex decisions. Decades later, four simple questions have spread to thousands, helping them put their best foot forward. These questions have been masterfully constructed to build upon a person’s character and help manage the daily decisions that everyone faces.


When a person’s character is considered, trustworthiness is one of the most frequently thought-of ideals. And to Taylor, this is a critical yet one of the most straightforward parts of the Four-Way Test. Taylor asked the simple question: is it the truth? Without the truth, life can quickly become stressful and complex, tangling the already knotted ball of life. When hidden because of deception or even good intentions, these truths can lead to harm and unhappiness, especially in the modern world.


In today’s technological world, an important area of content on the internet is the news and one of the most consumed. In this statistic, large masses of humans are educated about the world around them, including positive and negative stories. While useful and popular, the truthfulness of these statements can massively impact everyday life. Taylor may have been only applying the question about truth to decisions, but there is a strong connection to today’s news. Accurate news enables individuals to function and relate to their environment. But if the news is inaccurate, one could easily be led to distress and concern because of “fake” articles and worse yet, harmful actions and consequences. Digital literacy and misinformation are hot topics now that relate to Taylor’s first question.


Another point of examination is the ideal of fairness. This ideal can be interpreted as not handing each person an award but allowing the opportunity for them to seek it. While this means that not every person will get a prize, the equal chance to attempt and work for it was Taylor’s ultimate goal: providing a level playing field for all. In other words, why should anyone have a better chance of success than another?


In today’s world, an intriguing example manifests in communist countries. While attempting to be a society where equality is front and center, these countries often inevitably spiral downward to a totalitarian state. These governments tend to restrict many things, taking away freedoms. Along with this, opportunities are restricted, ending in pure inequality for citizens. Comparatively the United States provides an environment where almost anyone can be anything he can envision. Seeing this, Taylor’s test reflects an important and rewarding part of human life: fairness.


When focusing on service in or outside their community, most individuals think of themselves or those in need. This form of service is heroic; however, Taylor thought about much more than individuals. Not only did he value service, but he also wanted to share and cultivate relationships through charity and daily life decisions. Through his Four-Way Test, Taylor thought that each decision could build goodwill, hopefully inspiring others. By portraying goodwill and positivity, a greater friendship can be created among individuals.


Goodwill and friendship can be found all over the modern-day internet and is increasingly apparent in one area: social media. Through social media, closer relationships can be built with friends and family and goodwill spread to others via fundraisers or positive news.

All of this was made possible through simple innovation. On the contrary, social media also has its downsides, such as negative influences, psychological issues, and even social isolation when there is excessive attachment to social media. For instance, social media brings many to screens, reducing time for face-to-face interactions. To combat this, many are attempting to hold more social events that can break the addiction and provide the needed physical interaction. While Taylor’s test was created well before social media existed, his test still relevantly questions individuals making decisions regarding this new technology and how it can help build character.


Being self-centered is a natural tendency. So when choosing an activity or product, the logical idea is to select the most beneficial item for yourself. This can influence your decision-making skills so greatly that it might even hinder them. Realizing this, Taylor designed the last question to focus on this complex. To truly become that advanced character, he believed that the individual’s decisions should not only benefit himself but empower his community.


An example of such a benefit is the Industrial and Technological Revolutions. Both revolutions brought new technologies that could not have been foreseen before their creation. In fact, most citizens would not have believed that innovations such as the iPhone or the electric car were possible. With these creations, life for the majority became easier as the products simplified the user’s involvement. However, while being highly beneficial and productive, future generations might be facing unrecognized consequences such as increased pollution of the world. What seems to benefit the current generation greatly could destroy ecosystems and poison the air for future generations. These Four-Way Test pieces not only encourage moral decisions but also force the individual to ponder them carefully and thoughtfully.


Living a model life is a goal of Taylor, being one of the central parts of the Four-Way Test. In theory, working towards this goal would be the simplest to achieve by way of the

Four-Way Test, as each decision brings one closer to the goal. One way to achieve this would be to consciously make an effort to participate in activities that move you in that direction, such as the Pass It On Movement. The Pass It On Movement is a trend sweeping social media that spreads good news and encourages recipients to empower others with similar news. This movement reveals how the Four-Way Test is purposely structured so that each question answers another, benefiting all and building goodwill and friendship.


When Taylor created The Four-Way Test, it initially was motivated by a desire to save a failing business; however, he ended up creating a test questioning morals, ethics, and life itself. It questions every decision’s truthfulness and fairness, helping to ensure that unnecessary harm is prevented and individuals have the opportunities they want. The Four-Way Test ends by asking about effects on friendships, personal goodwill, and overall benefit. Each decision stresses and spreads the importance of service and empowering of others, all culminating in a central message: an exemplary life. By wielding the power of the pen, Taylor created an enduring strong tool to create and encourage a commendable life.