Though she was born without arms due to a congenital defect, Jessica Cox isn’t one to keep her feet on the ground.
Exhibiting remarkable dexterity and confidence, Cox never viewed the lack of her appendages as a disability.
Believing the sky’s the limit, she took flight, literally. In doing so, Cox achieved the improbable, becoming the first armless person in the world to earn a pilot’s license.
Cox’s extensive list of accomplishments – international speaker, certified scuba diver, third degree black belt in Taekwondo – will put the most able-bodied of us to shame.
The obvious postscript to this story is that Cox today is happily married, swept from under her two feet by husband Patrick and now tours the world as a disability rights advocate.
Even after writing a book “Disarm Your Limits: The Flight Formula To Lift You To Success” and starring in her own documentary “Right Footed”, the ink is yet to dry on Cox’s amazing story.
For every happy ending there is a turbulent beginning, where true character is forged and also where our conversation first takes place.
On this episode of Quite Franklin, Cox offers me a bird’s eye view of her life, starting with how she adapted to every challenge life threw her way.
Like a pilot in command of an airplane, it seemed as though Cox was always in control of her life. After speaking with her, I learned this was not the case initially, as she struggled to function in a world built for people with two arms.
Just days prior on YouTube, I watched Cox’s TedxTelAviv talk, transfixed as this petite lady, without any arms, demonstrated how she deftly used both feet to buckle herself into the airplane’s four-point safety harness.
With injuries and age having chipped away at my flexibility, I wondered if I could do the same if our roles were reversed.
Cox, having long banished the words “I Can’t” from her vocabulary, reminds me that the mind is far capable of many things and the limits that we perceive are so often self-imposed.
In her adolescence, Cox had the option of using prosthetic arms, an accessory she tried to take full advantage of but found lacking in the end.
Growing up, she had mastered the use of her feet to perform everyday tasks, from opening a cola to putting on her contact lenses.
Much like how I struggled to conceive of a reality where I had to relearn the use of my limbs in a different way, prosthetic arms were nothing but foreign to Cox.
As I play the passenger on this short journey, Cox also shares how she’s slowly changing the perceptions of disability as an advocate.
Cox’s favorite quote from Eleanor Roosevelt “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission” underscores her positive attitude and self-belief.
On the back of her unorthodox flight path to success, Cox stands as a refreshing corrective to the ruthless peer pressure to conform in modern society.
I’ve come to recognize that while we aren’t always dealt the best cards in life, it’s up to us to turn what we have into a winning hand.
And even when life doesn’t give you any hands, Cox reminds us that we can still stand strong on our own two feet.