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Achieve The Impossible With No Arms

Healing The Asian's Shame With Jessica Cox

 Published on: Aug 16, 2019

A motivational speaker, “achieve the impossible” business consultant, a Guinness record holder, Jessica Cox is recognized internationally as an inspirational keynote speaker. Born without arms, Jessica lives a normal life using her feet as others use their hands. She flies airplanes, drives cars, and earned a black belt in taekwondo. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Arizona and has traveled to twenty countries and six continents sharing her inspirational message. In this episode, she shares her message and insight into living and achieving the impossible.

Healing The Asian’s Shame: Achieve The Impossible With No Arms with Jessica Cox

Before I introduce my guest, I like to read the review. This one is from Wendy Kim. “Kimchi is an incredible stand for empowering and elevating Asian women. There have been very few avenues for Asian women to be heard even though they have a very powerful message. Her episodes are thought-provoking, empathetic and authentic.” Thank you, Wendy Kim, for your acknowledgment. With you and other Asian women’s help, we can make a bigger impact on our generation and future generations of Asian-American. Please help us spread the message by supporting and sharing this podcast. I have a tool that I want to share with you. Using your cell phone, text AWOP to 64-600. You will get a link to my virtual business card brought to you by EZcard. With that link, you will have access to all the show’s episodes. You can search by the guest name, by their ethnicity or by the keyword from the episodes’ title. Check it out.

A motivational speakerachieve the impossible business consultant, a Guinness record holder, Jessica Cox, is recognized internationally as an inspirational keynote speaker. Born without arms, Jessica lives a normal life using her feet as others use their hands. She flies airplanes, drives cars and earned a Black Belt in taekwondo. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Arizona. She has traveled to twenty countries and six continents sharing her inspirational message. She is going to share her message and insight into living and achieving the impossible. Please help me welcomeJessica Cox. 

Thank you. I’m glad to be on the show. 

It’s my pleasure to have you here. Jessica, what is your childhood like growing up in Arizona? 

I was born in a small town, Sierra Vista, Arizona, where there weren’t many people in the city, but it was great to grow up in a small town. I was born without both of my arms and my parents initially were very shocked at the news that I was going to have to live my life without arms. They didn’t know what kind of future was in store for me, but they were phenomenal parents for me. They laid a foundation and a belief system that I could do anything I wanted to do if I just kept persisting and I didn’t give up. My mother taught me how to be a very hard worker. My dad taught me that I’m not a victim of a disability or a handicap, that I happen to be different. That’s my life and I will be able to live my life with what I have. I went to a regular school. I grew up going to different activities, from swim lessons, dance lessons to everything that children would do growing up. I was never held back. 

Your parents did not treat you differently from how they treat your siblings? 

It sounds very hard to believe that my parents didn’t treat me differently from the rest of my family, from my brother or my sister, but they instilled in me that I could do anything. I could go on to college, I could do whatever I wanted to do. I could have a career. I could be a mother if I so choose to. They didn’t let me seek limitations in my life. I was very blessed to have them. 

Who taught you to use your foot as your hands? 

It sounds very strange but I learned to use my feet. Almost in that way, my mother was told by a doctor that I would eventually learn to use my feet as hands and he advised that she would hand me toys to my feet. My mom did that when I was even a toddler or sitting in the crib. She would hand over the toys to me and I would grab them with my toes. Those became my fingers and my feet became my hands because I didn’t have the hands to begin with. My feet were always there to substitute the hands. 

Did all the toes grow longer to adapt to the grasping? 

I have asked a podiatrist once why it is that I’m able to use my feet like hands. He said that this is an atavistic trait, meaning something that we all have in us. Our ancestors at one point use their feet more than we use them. This is something that’s built within us and using my feet like hands, which he wanted to take a picture of my foot. He said, “Your foot looks more hand like than the rest of my patients. Your foot is wider for one.” The gap between the big toe and second toe is wider, so I can grip more than the average foot. My toes are longer and the arch of my foot is a pretty high arch so that I can hold things on the sole of my foot if I have to.  

It’s amazing how our bodies can adapt to our needs. Because my feet had a lot more work to do than the average person, they tended to shape in a way that allowed me to function and use my feet as hands. When you look at the bottom, they look the same as anyone’s foot. They don’t look any different, but the way I’m able to stretch my toes out wider is probably an adaptation that my feet have allowed me to be able to stretch my toes out to grab things and have a very powerful grip. If you test me on my toes, I have a very strong pinch with my big toe and second toe. 

Are you playing the piano too? 

Yes, I do play a couple of tunes on the piano. 

I don’t play piano but I used to learn it when I was younger and I think the pinky is the weakest one. You probably can handle it using your pinkie to play piano? 

In the same way that your pinkie is the weakest, my pinkie toe is also the weakest as far as movement. When I’m playing the piano keys, I actually use some toes in a different way. Most of the time I’m using my big toe and second toe on the keys or if I’ll use the edge of the side of my pinkie toe if I need to. 

In your bio, your dad said he never shed a tear about your condition. Do you know the reason he said that? 

My dad was the strong one when it came to the news of my birth. Any mother would be devastated if your child is born with a disability, especially if it wasn’t expected. That was probably the hardest part is my parents had no idea. They thought I was in normal pregnancy. I would come out like my brother with all four limbs and no challenges. The sonogram that was done during the pregnancy showed that I was going to be a normal baby. It was a difficult time for them to find out that my life would be very different from someone else. For my dad, he was able to stay strong through it. He said, “I never once shed a tear about your birth condition. I never saw you as a victim.” Therefore, because he didn’t see me as a victim, I didn’t have that choice growing up. I was just a little different than everyone else. 

Achieving The Impossible: Our bodies can adapt to our needs.

What did he believe about life and karma? 

My father believed that everyone happens to be different and that God allowed this to happen maybe for a reason. Perhaps my mother would say, “There’s a great plan for you if you just stay strong and don’t give up, wait and you will see.” Sure enough, it has been a wonderful example to so many other people and has turned into something that is a true blessing. 

Do you believe in karma? 

I personally have referenced that karma in a couple of occasions. I didn’t necessarily believe my situation was as a result of karma. I don’t believe my parents refer to that either. I’m sure it was something that crossed their mind. For them, it was some fluke thing that happened and they moved forward in their life in the same way that anyone who faces a challenge. You have to just keep moving forward one day at a time, one step at a time and one challenge at a time. 

That’s a very good mindset to just deal with what you are given and not blaming yourself. Who are your role models, Jessica? 

I had been blessed with wonderful people in my life who had been role models to me. The women in my life are strong women. I named my mom and my aunt, a mentor of mine who is a woman who lost her arms at an early age. She was only three years old. When she was about seven years older than me, she showed me that she lived her life as a single mom taking care of her babies by herself. If she could do that, then I could do anything. She was a role model to me because she figured out things without arms and she taught me a couple of things that I needed to learn. 

That’s great that you had that models and supports of strong women. 

I needed that for sure. 

All of us need that. We need a strong example to show us the way. Just like you, you’re an example, a model for a lot of women out there. 

I only hope to be. 

What were your biggest challenges that you overcame before you were twenty years old? 

The biggest challenges that I had to overcome were even taking care of my most basic needs, how to get dressed without arms and hands. That was a challenge, how to be independent. We found a way in which I could be independent by using tools that I could use in my life so that I could eventually move out and live on my own and I did. In college, at the age of eighteen, I moved out of my parent‘s house and lived in the dormitories at college all by myself without any special help. Later on, I moved into my own apartment and learned to take care of all of my personal needs, take care of feeding myself, how to live life without arms and be independent. I was able to do that through the support of course of many and by not giving up and figuring out a way to accomplish independence. 

What about after twenty years old, what was your challenges? 

I think at that point I had achieved independence living on my own. After twenty years old, it was figuring out what career would I pursue so that I could be financially independent. That was a challenge. I had to get my degree first, which I did at the age of 21. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a minor in Communication. After I had my education, I was trying to figure out what career did I want to pursue so that I could be able to earn a living. I decided to become a businesswoman and became the President and Founder of my own business. That’s what allowed me to take off in a way that is pretty phenomenal because I’ve had the opportunity to speak as a businesswoman in 24 countries around the world. 

Who inspired you to get into psychology? 

My interest in psychology was probably from my dad because he mentioned it as we were growing up. Originally, I wanted to pursue medical school. I went to college with the intent of becoming a doctor. I studied physiological sciences for the first two years of college. I said, “I enjoy psychology more than some of the science classes that I was taking.” I went into psychology as a junior in college. I changed my major and then decided to graduate with my degree in psychology. 

It’s to understand the reason why people do certain things. It’s about mindset. 

I believe so much in the power of mindset. Being able to study that in psychology and now as a speaker, empower people to believe that the body can do just about anything. It’s the mind that takes convincing. 

Achieving The Impossible: Don’t let fear stand in the way of any opportunity.

Sometimes it’s hard because we don’t see it facetoface with the mind so it’s hard to confront it. Was your goal to achieve Guinness record or you just wanted to do something to prove that you can do it? 

If you could imagine living life without arms and hands, it’s a constant voice that you hear from other people, “You don’t have arms, you cannot do it.” Deep down inside, I sure had a burning drive to prove that I can do anything, even if it meant flying an airplane, what people would think is impossible. That was one of the driving forces for me was to be able to show that I can do this. It was also my greatest fear to fly in an airplane. As a speaker, I always tell people, “Don’t let fear stand in the way of any opportunity.” I thought why not be the example to that by pursuing the impossible. 

Does that mean that you’re not afraid of height anymore? 

I was always afraid of losing contact with the ground. Now, I have to say after becoming a pilot, it does help. It does overcome your fear. 

Which one is harder to deal with critic or disappointment? 

I think that internally it ultimately has a bigger impact on your life because it’s up to you and how you look at something. You can have as many critics in your life, people telling you you can, people judging you or making you feel less than. Ultimately, it’ll be up to the individual how they respond to that and take that. What’s more challenging is probably dealing with those internal challenges of those questions of disappointment or the questions of feeling enough. Those are more difficult for an individual, I believe. 

Do you think it’s harder to deal with the critic or disappointment from yourself or from others? 

I think disappointment from the individual is always more challenging for myself. It’s always that if I have disappointment, it is more challenging than dealing with a critic. 

Is there anything that you are not able to do physically? 

I actually think about that and there is probably one thing that I’m still challenged at physically and that’s tying my hair in a ponytail because if you can only imagine, having to put your feet behind your head is a task in itself. Having to put a rubber band around the hair, I am still struggling and figuring out a way to tie my hair back on my own, keeping it brushed, washing my hair, brushing my hair, curling my hair, blow-drying my hair. It’s okay, I can do that with my feet. When it comes to tying it back, it’s still a physical challenge. 

Can you wear a bra? 

Yes, I actually fasten the bra first before I put it on and pull it down with my feet. It is a common question. I spoke one of the young girls asked, “How do you put on a bra?” 

How did you meet your husband? 

I had met my husband, Patrick, through practicing taekwondo. He at the time was a fourth–degree Black Belt in taekwondo and I was a first–degree Black Belt. We decided to hang out outside of our taekwondo school and that’s when we started dating. The reason we met is because I had a mutual friend who was teaching taekwondo and I walked into a taekwondo school and there he was. That was the start of how we met. Later started dating and then deciding to get married. We’ve been married for seven years. 

Is he your right hand in your business? 

Yes, he’s a right–hand man for me. 

I’m happy for both of you. Do you plan to have a child someday? 

I have always wanted to be a mom. I think the time will have to be right when I decide to have a child. I am of course very dedicated to my profession, to my vocation and my choice of becoming a speaker to pursue being on stage and traveling the world. When you become a mother, there’ll have to be more challenges that will be easier to take if I’m home more often. As a speaker, it’s not the right time to have a child, but I think when the time is right, I would love to be a mother. 

That’s a wonderful intention and plan. What is your mission and vision in life? 

It has definitely shifted. It’s ever–evolving. It’s something that constantly changes and will continue to change as I get older because there are always new goals in my life. I always felt like I wanted to share my voice, a voice that I wanted to tell the world and it turned into a career as a speaker. It has brought me to places that I would’ve never imagined traveling to, to share that message, that disability does not mean inability. I wanted to educate, to advocate and to be a positive voice and a light to give hope to many people. Ultimately, I think it falls under that same mission and vision of being an inspiration and hope and a light to others. 

Achieving The Impossible: If you can embrace the challenges, you will be surprised at how it will help you grow in a phenomenal way and in a way that helps other people.

What are the top three tips that you want Asian women to know so that they can live life powerfully regardless of their circumstances? 

The first thing I do want Asian women to know is the importance of acceptance and the importance of embracing whatever it is that you have in life. Everyone has something that they’re challenged with, some obstacle or hurdle. If you can embrace that challenge and that obstacle, you will be so surprised at how it will help you to grow in a phenomenal way and in a way that helps other people. In a way, that helps you to live a full life. The first and foremost is having the acceptance of whatever it is that someone is faced with. The second one is to never give up because I think it is so easy to give up because there are so many obstacles or something may seem very intimidating.  

Just don’t ever give up, keep fighting. You will be able to stretch yourself in a way, as long as you never give up. You’ll be surprised at how many doors will open by not giving up. My third is to be fearless because being fearless is what will transform your life. Everyone has a fear that stands in the way of achieving greatness, of achieving wonderful things, if we can just not let fear stand in the way of an opportunity. I love the famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, “Identify your greatest fear and walk directly at it.” It’s so important for us to be fearless individuals and to be strong women. 

What was your greatest fear? 

One of my greatest fears was flying in an airplane because I didn’t know how an airplane could be in the sky and losing contact with the ground was always terrifying. For me, it was to be able to overcome that is what I wanted to do and I did. It empowered me to be able to do something despite being afraid of it. That’s true for anyone. If you can see something that you’re afraid of and do something a little bit every day to get over that fear, it will transform your life. 

How long did it take you to be certified to fly the airplane? 

It took me three years, three airplanes, three different flight instructors, numerous hours of study, flight training in Florida, in California and then back in my home state of Arizona to finally become a certified pilot and accomplished what some people may have thought was impossible. It has been a wonderful, empowering experience to fly an airplane. Every time I fly around and I land, I have a huge smile on my face knowing that I was able to do that by myself without any help. It is the greatest form of independence and freedom. 

Does the airplane have to be specialized or specially equipped so that you can maneuver it with your feet? 

The airplane does not have to be specially modified. The airplane is a standard airplane. I had to learn how to adapt with my feet to use on the controls without any special devices or special equipment. 

Most people would use their arms or hands. They don’t use a feed for the pedal or anything. It’s just hand control

Most people would use their hands and some airplanes require your feet on the pedals and your hands on the controls. For me, the airplane I fly was built in the 1940s, so it was a very old airplane, but it’s the only airplane built without rudder pedals. Therefore, there are two less controls than the average airplane. I have my right foot on the yoke and my left foot on the throttle, which means I don’t have to have two more limbs on pedals. I just have my feet on the controls and then if I need to break, there’s a single foot brake and I bring my left foot off the throttle and step on the single foot brake. The airplane is a very busy place, especially when you’re landing the airplane. It took many hours to finally figure out how to do that with my feet in a safe manner. 

Why did it take you three airplanes and three teachers? 

It’s three airplanes because of the specific requirements that I needed on the airplane. Not only did I need that special model airplane, the one built in the 1940s called the Ercoupe airplane, but also the controls had to be low enough on the control panel. Some control panels have higher controls. It makes it more challenging. It means reaching my foot higher up. We had to find the right airplane that helped me become a safe pilot. That’s why it took three airplanes and three different flight instructors figuring out the logistics of how to make this work, all the demands that is required of a pilot. 

Was the instructor nervous when they’re teaching you? 

I’m sure they were nervous teaching me but for the most part, they were pretty calm and they treated me like they would any other student pilot, I would say. Until it came time to solo the airplane by myself, it was the same process that any pilot instructor would go through. They made sure that if the student worked hard, worked diligently and studied hard, then they would endorse them to be a safe pilot. 

What’s your next project? 

My next project is working on my foundation to help more people with disabilities be empowered in the same way that I had been so blessed with so many opportunities. I have focused on a lot of my time and energy to help people with disabilities and through this foundation called Rightfooted Foundation International. We’re always looking for support to help many people with disabilities. I have a special place in my heart for children with disabilities, children who have lost limbs due to accidents or illnesses. Children who were born without their limbs as well, which is one in 10,000 children will be born losing a limb. To be able to give them the opportunities that I’ve been given and to provide an ongoing support system, a mentoring relationship and support for them to become successful. 

This foundation is mostly based in the United States or is it a worldwide foundation? 

It’s not limited to the United States. We’re doing outreach in other countries as well. 

That’s a wonderful cause. 

It’s been wonderful. It’s been a blessing. 

I’m so proud of you, Jessica. 

Thank you. 

What’s the best way to reach you and to learn more about you? 

Please go to my website, JessicaCox.com. You can find me there or you can find me on Facebook, on Instagram but you can always email me through my website. 

Thank you so much for being a guest on the show. You are an example of someone who lives life loud. For our audience, I hope you feel inspired and motivated by Jessica’s story. Share with us how this episode impacts you and change your view about life. If you want to get more about my podcast or about my events, text AWOP to 64600. Until next time, live life loud.  

Links Mentioned:

Episode Quotes:

"I’m not a victim or a handicap; I happen to be different."
"Disability does not mean inability."
"You will be able to stretch yourself if you don't give up."
"I learned to be independent by using tools."


About Jessica Cox

A motivational speaker, “Achieve the Impossible” business consultant, a Guinness World Record Holder, Jessica Cox is recognized internationally as an inspirational keynote speaker.

Born without arms, Jessica lives a normal life using her feet as others use their hands.  She flies airplanes, drives cars, earned a black belt in Taekwondo.

Jessica has a Bachelor degree in Psychology from the University of Arizona. She has now traveled to 20 countries, six continents sharing her inspirational message.



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