The Inspiring Story of Bill Porter
Bill Porter was born with cerebral palsy, which made it difficult for him to move his arms and legs and even speak. He was born in San Francisco, California but moved to Portland, Oregon at an early age with his mother.
He had to endure constant teasing from his schoolmates as a child. Mainly, because most of the right side of his nervous system was highly atrophied. There was much prejudice against people in his situation back in the 1930s. This is because few understood that a person only had limitations for certain activities, not for all of them.
Only one person trusted him blindly: his mother. She knew the boy was alert and interested in learning and evolving. This is why she encouraged him to keep going from an early age.
“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”
The passion that motivated Bill Porter
Bill Porter didn’t want to spend his life doomed to inactivity. His mind was restless and he dreamed of being useful and evolving. In fact, he loved sales, as he liked being in contact with others. Thus, he thought this profession gave him many opportunities to make progress. Many people told him that becoming a salesman would be impossible in his condition.
His mother believed in him and encouraged him to look for a job as a salesman. He went for it. It was with great trepidation that he went to the offices of Watkins Incorporated, a company that marketed toiletries. Seeing his condition, the manager refused him the job. This is because he didn’t think it was possible that such a boy, with such limitations, could ever sell anything.
Bill Porter was immensely frustrated but, once again, his mother encouraged him to persist. So he returned to Watkins the next day and asked to speak directly to the manager. He then proposed they do a test run by giving him the least desirable sales route, the one that no other salesperson would want.
The manager hesitated but figured Bill Porter wasn’t going to give up, so he agreed to give him the trial he requested. He was convinced he wouldn’t last more than a couple of days as he could probably not handle the pressure. In short, he just agreed to prove him wrong.
A story that became a legend
The next day, Bill Porter showed up early for his new job. He had been assigned a distant route, in a difficult-to-reach location with no sales prospects. He had to travel a total of 10 miles each day. Salespeople went door to door back then. It didn’t intimidate Bill, however, who went to work with the best attitude. However, no one was buying from him, as expected.
Lunchtime came and Bill Porter went to a park to enjoy the meal his mother had packed for him. It was a simple sandwich. However, there was something very special in it. It had two words written with ketchup: “patience” and “persistence”. Bill regained the excitement he had been losing door after door in the morning after seeing his mother’s message.
He gradually began to get to know people in the industry. He gained the sympathy of many of them, due to his simplicity, charisma, and enthusiasm. Soon, he made his first sale, then the second, then many more. There, in that place that all the other salesmen despised, Bill Porter found his path to success, both financially and personally. In fact, he became Watkins’ top salesman in a short time.
Bill Porter worked for 40 years for that company and collected awards, medals, and even admirers during that time. A local newspaper got wind of the story and wanted to publish it in 1995. This is just how people got to know this wonderful man who was soon to retire. Thanks to The Oregonian, Bill received thousands of letters and calls from all over the world. He was quite the celebrity. In fact, TNT turned his story into a movie in 2002. He died at the age of 81, in 2013, a completely happy man.