We all have areas where we are weak and areas where we are strong. Perhaps, you have difficulty with math, while I might struggle with social skills. Your strong point may be leadership, while someone else has the ability to keep an immaculate house. While these strengths and weaknesses seem to be simply part of our natural makeup, there is a way to make weak areas strong. And that is what self-improvement is all about — overcoming the difficulties of life and re-making these challenges into strengths. If you will work at it long enough, your weak areas can become your biggest strengths. Just ask Bill Porter.
Fifty years ago, the Oregon State Vocational Office declared Bill Porter to be disabled and unemployable. Yet, in 1995, he was recognized as the #4 top sales consultant in personal sales at Watkins Products, one of the nation’s largest direct sales companies. Porter’s challenges are significant; he suffers from cerebral palsy. Even though he was born with a serious birth defect that severely affects his speech, his fingers, and his motor skills, Bill Porter refused to give up on life as many encouraged him to do.
“They said I had too much motivation for my own good. They said I was unemployable and they wanted to give me monthly payments. I wouldn’t take them. I wanted to work!” he recalls with determination.
Bill applied everywhere for a job, but was turned down because of his disability. Finally, he got his big break when the Watkins company gave him a chance to sell door-to-door, on commission only. Many wouldn’t consider this an exciting opportunity, but to Bill it was a chance to prove himself.
Every weekday morning for years Bill got up at 5:30, struggled into his clothes, and then rode the bus to the nearby Hotel Vintage Plaza where a shoe-shiner tied his shoes for him and the bell man buttoned his sleeves and tied his tie. Then he hit the streets. Most people said no; walking was a struggle; the suitcase was heavy. But occasionally, someone bought something. Since he couldn’t use his hands, Bill had the customer fill out the purchase order.
Bill tells of one winter day when it was snowing so hard the buses weren’t running. “I should have quit early but didn’t,” he remembers. He finally got a ride home but had to crawl on his hands and knees up his icy driveway to get to his house.
I met Bill in 1995. His movement was slow and difficult; his speech was hard to understand. But in his eyes shone his motto of “patience and persistence.” And, he never missed an opportunity to sell his products.
Bill Porter’s determination to live independently turned his physical challenge into an advantage. Because of his disability, people looked at him, they admired his courage, they were inspired by his tenacity — and they bought. In spite of his disability, he worked and struggled to develop his presentation skills to the point where he was referred to as “a vital backbone of Watkins distribution.” His ability to make lemonade from the sourest of lemons allowed Bill Porter to live a full, productive, and independent life. “My work is my life,” Porter commented, ” I love it. I enjoy meeting people. I get to know them very well. I can remember what they bought three visits back!”
We all have areas where we are weak. Take a lesson from Bill Porter and work on it until your formerly weak areas become your greatest strengths. Pick a weakness. Study, practice, step outside your comfort zone, enlist the help of others, and rise to a new level. Face your weakness with the determination of Bill Porter and pretty soon, like a beautiful butterfly emerging from an ugly cocoon, you will find reservoirs of strength where before there was only frailty and doubt.