Jessica Cox is a motivational speaker. She is a black belt in tae kwon do, a graduate in psychology, a pianist, a wife, and an airplane pilot. She drives herself to work, travels the globe, brushes her hair, and can even eat with chopsticks. There’s no question: Jessica Cox is an inspiration to us all. Oh – and did we mention she was born without arms? Read more about her truly incredibly story, and what it really means for the rest of us. 

Jessica made history when she was twenty-five by becoming the first person to ever pilot a plane with only her feet. As tenacious as she is ambitious, Cox has never let her disability stand between her and her goals, and continues to challenge our perception of the limits we all face in life. One of freedom’s many definitions, after all, is the ability to choose one’s own path regardless of circumstance, and that is exactly what Jessica does on a daily basis. In a world created for people with two hands, she has achieved more than many fully-abled people will do in a lifetime – and she’s only thirty.

Inspirational stories like these are remarkable, admirable, and not all too difficult to find. Consider the one-armed professional surfer, the oldest competitive bodybuilder, and the hero with no arms. You even have the Wright brothers, afflicted with an improbable belief that revolutionized the world and, hundreds of years later, enabled even a disabled woman to take flight. These are people who put mind over matter in the greatest sense and didn’t stop trying until their dreams became reality.

But for those of us with four limbs, five senses, and only a vague sense of purpose, what’s the takeaway message here? “Never give up” and “Anything is possible” come to mind, but while such slogans look great on bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets, they may lack a certain sense of practicality. It’s all much easier said than done, after all – and this is the very reason we admire reality-defying achievers. Their stories are those of improbable odds, odds that most people feel they either don’t face or would be incapable of surmounting themselves.

But here’s the thing: we all have our odds in varying degrees. Every human on the planet has his or her own experience of life that inherently includes challenges and hardships. Life includes lots of other things too – love, hope, peace, belonging – and when these more positive aspects triumph over the obstacles, we flag the story as inspirational. Humans need inspiration. We need to believe in triumph over adversity, and the great mixed blessing is that we all have that potential to achieve our own brand of triumph.

We can all put our minds to the task and strive for what we want. No matter what body you have; where and how you grew up; what your life is like now; or where you’d like to be in five years, capitalize on your human freedom to challenge life’s barriers. It may not be a guaranteed success, but what in life is truly guaranteed? Regardless, you’ll never know until you take life into your own hands (or feet) and try.

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