The Happy Engineer Podcast

077: Can You Do the Impossible? How to Overcome Any Disadvantage with Jessica Cox – the World’s 1st Armless Pilot

Why me? Why do I have to be different? Why is life not fair?

If you’ve ever asked a question like that in your life, then you are going to deeply connect with our powerful conversation.

In this episode, the amazing Jessica Cox brings a message that you will never forget. Before I tell you why Jessica grew up asking these questions with frustration and anger, let me tell you that Jessica is now a motivational speaker who’s been featured on shows like Ellen, CNN, National Geographic, Fox and Friends, and the BBC News. Her speaking career spans 17 years, 27 countries and audiences of up to 40,000 people.

This is a message of hope, of achieving the impossible.

Jessica was born without arms, and she now uses her feet the way that most people use their hands! She flies airplanes and is the first licensed pilot with no arms, she drives cars, she’s married, and otherwise lives a normal life.

She is going to invite you into something bigger, to overcome your apparent disabilities or disadvantages in your career, and to step into your own courage, confidence, and greatness.

So press play and let’s chat… it’s time to break the barrier of the impossible and do it anyway!

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Previous Episode 076: Q&A #4 with Zach White | Dealing with a Micromanager Boss who Kills Your Motivation | How to Add More Value in Your Role Right Now




Turn a NO into a YES. 

This might be one of the most important principles to pull out of a truly powerful conversation with Jessica Cox. 

I am so inspired. 

I want to laser in on how you become the kind of person who can turn a no into a yes.

There are two things that you must hear. 

If you apply these two principles, you will be able to accelerate your goals and dreams in your career and in your life in ways that are currently unimaginable for you.

1) You already have a NO if you don’t have the courage to ask

This is the most common thing that plagues engineering leaders, introverts, people who lack the courage to go out and ask for what they want. 

There’s something that you want, or something that you need help with, but instead of asking, you try to solve that on your own.

You read another book, you listen to another podcast, you Google it or YouTube it for hours and hours to figure it out on your own. 

When you could have asked one person one question and gotten help. 

You already have a NO if you do not muster up the courage to ask for a yes.

This is true in your career right now. 

Maybe it’s a mentor who you’d really love to have to support you in your career growth and sponsor you in your career path. 

Well, if you don’t ask that person, you already have a no. You must go ask. 

I am in a mastermind with the absolute world’s greatest, Les Brown. 

If you don’t know Les, he is one of the grandfathers of motivational speaking and inspiration of our time. 

Les Brown and I were chatting during this Mastermind one day and he said to me, “You go out there and ask for help as soon as you need it, and you keep asking for help until you get it, not as a sign of weakness, but as a sign of your strength.

I agree with that wholeheartedly. 

We must get into the habit of asking for help as soon as we need it. 

Continuing to ask until we get it and not falling for this lie that needing help makes us weak.

It’s a sign of knowing that the fastest way to get things done is to get help from somebody who’s already done it. 

2) Keep asking. 

It’s that second half of the less brown quote.

If you want to turn a no into a yes, you must have the determination to continue to step in and ask. 

Come and ask in a different way. Ask a week later and ask with a different spin on it. 

People are drawn in to people who have a relentless energy. 

This just happened to me, about a week ago.

There’s a gentleman who I met at a networking event in Nashville, Tennessee. 

We sat at the same table. We connected for a few hours over the course of the day.

It was a nice connection, but we’re in totally different businesses.

He reached out to me and asked for support in helping him with how to use LinkedIn more effectively for his business because we used it pretty heavily with OACO in reaching out to engineering leaders like yourself.

Well, this is a complete distraction for me. This is not what I do. I’m not a LinkedIn consultant. 

So helping somebody with marketing tips on LinkedIn was not a priority for my calendar. 

I was really kind and courteous, but essentially said, “Hey, I don’t have the time right now.”

He came back and messaged me again. And asked for 15 minutes just to have a quick chat, and I declined him again. 

Said, “Hey, I really understand, you know, you wanna chat, but right now I’ve got so much on my plate. We just hired someone, you know, I’m onboarding them, and I don’t have time to make this a priority.”

I’m very protective of my time just as I challenge and coach all of my clients to be.

He messaged me again and this time he said, “Hey, I know that you’re super busy and I know that your time is incredibly valuable, so I would be happy to pay you for your time in order to have a conversation. Just let me know what it would cost. I would love to talk to you about what you’re doing.”

Well, now he’s getting my attention, but I still said, “You know what, this is not what I do. I’m not a consultant for this. I appreciate that you respect my time, but it’s still a no.” 

Well, guess what he did next? 

He came back again and this time said, “Well, look, I know this is something that could help me, and I know that you’re an expert, so I’d love to pay you for your time, and if you’re open to it, I would love to reward you with a referral fee for anybody who we close on LinkedIn by using any of the tips that you give me to build our business on. And it would be X dollars per client that we acquire for the next year.

I know you will not always have a financial way to get someone’s attention, but pay attention not to the exact execution but to the relentless focus at the end of the day.

I gave this gentleman half an hour of my time. I did not charge him a dime for it because it wasn’t ever about the money. 

What drew me in to wanting to support him was the fact that he would not stop asking, and at the end I said, Well, look, if it’s that important to him, I’ll make time to make this happen because I am drawn into his relentless energy to want to connect with me.

Ask, ask, ask, and then don’t stop asking until you get the answers that you need to accomplish the things that you’re aiming to accomplish. 

You can be determined without being disrespectful or going against boundaries. 

And if someone says outright, please stop bothering me, then give it a break for a while.

 And when you do come back to them, let them know that, “Hey, I recognize you asked me to stop bothering you, but I absolutely respect you and I would love to have an opportunity so how can I approach this in a way that you would be open?

Turn no into, yes. And the life of your dreams will appear before your eyes so much faster than you ever thought possible. Let’s do this.


Jessica Cox is a motivational speaker featured on TV shows like Ellen, CNN, National Geographic, Fox and Friends, and BBC News. Her speaking career spans 17 years, 27 countries, and audiences up to 40,000 people. Companies like AT&T, NASA, the Smithsonian, State Farm, and Cisco have asked her for inspirational workshops, keynotes, and more. Jessica was born without arms and uses her feet the way most people use their hands.

Jessica grew up asking with frustration and anger, “Why me? Why do I have to be different?” She learned to see the blessings in her life and accept herself as a whole person. Now, Jessica flies airplanes, drives cars, is married, and otherwise lives a normal life.

Jessica is the author of Disarm Your Limits, an autobiographical self help book that has sold more than 10,000 copies. She also writes a monthly article for Flying Magazine. In 2020,

Jessica announced plans to build The Impossible Airplane, a custom 200 mph, 4 seat airplane she will use to circumnavigate the world. When she’s not flying off into the sunset, Jessica continues to train in Taekwondo where she’s a Fourth Degree Black Belt.





Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: Jessica, awesome to have time with you today. Thanks so much for your generosity and being here, and welcome to The Happy Engineer Podcast. 

[00:00:09] Jessica Cox: I’m excited to be on. Thank you for having me. 

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:12] I have had an incredibly fun time getting to know you we’re both part of the world’s best Mastermind and have heard all of the amazing things that you’re doing and got exposed to your work and your message and your mission.

[00:00:25] Zach White: And I, I will say, you’re the only person I’ve ever met whose email signature is Toes on the keyboard, and I, I love it. I love it. So obviously, the elephant in the room, the thing that everybody stands out immediately when we get to know you and your life is that you were born without arms.

[00:00:45] And all of the things that you’ve accomplished in the context of that for most of the world is all inspiring and just absolutely amazing. I want you to share with us as we just jump into this, what is the first question? That everybody who meets you when you’re on tour and doing keynote and everything, what does everybody ask first when they see you and your life story and your work?

[00:01:10] what’s the first obvious question people ask? 

[00:01:13] Jessica Cox: Wow, that’s, you know, that always varies if, if it’s a young person like a child you know, children don’t have any filters, which is what I absolutely love about them, and we kind of lose that as an adult. it’s along the lines of what happened or, you know, why don’t you have arms, you know, how do you do anything?

[00:01:32] Or, and then adults, you know, like, sometimes, you know, you have more extroverted adults who will say comments that are a little condescending at times, and it’s not intended to be that way, but you know, it really catches people off guard in the public to see someone who lives. And functions independently, might I say, without arms and does everything to get by to get to the grocery store, from driving a car, to, carrying groceries, to the cash register, to taking out her credit card to make the purchase.

[00:02:09] And all this, for a first timer is a lot to take in. So I understand and I have empathy for that initial shock factor, the shock value that, that I provide to people. But I, I, I find it entertaining at times, sometimes a little exhausting. Uh, in all honesty, sometimes, a, a blessing in a way that I can educate and advocate, for those who are different, and have this unique opportunity to really bring light to so much.

[00:02:40] So, I think it’s, yeah, it’s definitely, to answer your question in a very long winded way, it, it ver, it varies , uh, that’s the answer to that question. It depends on who it is, who sees me for the first time. 

[00:02:50] Zach White: I can definitely relate to feeling like I’m not equipped to know what to say or what to ask when I meet someone with any kind of disability that I’m not familiar with or have never seen before, or, you just don’t wanna offend and you don’t know what to say.

[00:03:10] and I’m curious if you could provide some quick coaching for us, like when somebody is in that place, whether it’s, you know, physical, A parent disability or limitation, like what you have or, Do you have some coaching, some guidance for us on how to step into that atmosphere?

[00:03:25] I think it’s just, just be real. and don’t hold back. Don’t feel like, Oh, am I gonna offend them? don’t be too concerned. Be a human being. And I think that’s ultimately what people with visual differences. they want to be treated like a human being. And that’s where, again, like I said earlier, children have no filters.

[00:03:48] Jessica Cox: So, so they do that right away. But as an adult, there’s those filters that develop as we mature that we don’t wanna offend somebody. But then it’s like maybe someone’s trying so hard that what they end up saying is more condescending than just saying hi. Whoa, that’s a surprise. Or, um, Wow. Yeah, that’s that.

[00:04:10] I’ve never seen anyone quite like you before. Something like that. You know, whatever is natural. Well, I have to, make sure that I clearly communicate that every person with a disability or visual difference has a different opinion about this. some people maybe perhaps who’ve lost a limb or have been injured and are in a wheelchair or have something that sets them apart from.

[00:04:34] may not wanna have to rehash everything that sure may have caused their condition. For me, I was born this way, so this is all I’ve ever known. Not having arms is my everyday life. In fact, I forget that I don’t have arms. And it wasn’t, it isn’t until people remind me that I am missing arms that I’m like, Oh yeah, I am different

[00:04:54] So, Wow. Um, it’s very different for the individual. And I always say, just be honest. Just be real. And whatever it is that you have to say or want to say, don’t hold it back. I think more offensive than saying something that may not come out exactly right.

[00:05:10] is someone who pretends you’re not even there, or pretends and ignores everything that comes to them in that moment. and that’s a dishonest. Interaction that I always discourage. 

[00:05:24] Zach White: Hmm. Thank you for that. I’m encouraged and it is, not just for these visual differences where that advice is really important.

[00:05:35] I think we could got a copy and paste that into a lot of different situations, but I, I, I really appreciate you sharing that with me, Jessica. One of the things you shared, it’s, it’s in your book, and I’m gonna pull out a few points from that and I will highlight everyone. Jessica’s book, Disarm Your Limits is the title.

[00:05:52] We’ll put a link to it in the show notes, go get a copy. It’s an extraordinary read, there’s something that was really touching for me in your book. It’s right at the beginning about how people ask you about how you’ve turned a disability into a part of your message and mission and this transformational way.

[00:06:11] You mirror back to them that in many ways we all have part of us that was born without arms. Would you explain that message and, and the heartbeat of that for me and for the engineering leader listening? 

[00:06:25] we all have something, whether that’s not having arms, whether that’s being in a, you.

[00:06:32] Jessica Cox: Born into poverty or not having supportive family members or feeling like we could use more confidence in our life. we all have something that we’re either lacking or want more of or something that we see as being a, could be a potential setback. , or a disadvantage. And that’s what I like to say to people.

[00:06:53] And in that book that I wrote, and it’s been many years now, is basically reminding people that while I don’t have arms, there’s something that they’re faced with and equally that they have in their life. 

[00:07:07] the emotional side of this versus the physical. Can you. What that journey is like for you.

[00:07:15] Zach White: So physically you’ve overcome obstacle after obstacle after obstacle that the world would look at and call obstacles in the physical world, but what’s on the inside? What, what’s going on? Because what you’re describing, like, yeah, we all have that in our minds and in our hearts in some way. What, what’s that journey been like for you?

[00:07:32] people, you know, really get caught up on that, that difference that they see. And that’s why I really appreciate this. Zach, I appreciate your recognition I could sit here and talk to you all day long about, okay, this is how I tie my shoelaces. This is how I brush my teeth in the morning.

[00:07:48] Jessica Cox: Uh, this is how I did the dishes last night. I could go on and on and on and how I’ve engineered my own life in a way without arms. But what people fail to recognize. , which is something that everyone relates to. It resonates with everyone, is the emotional challenge of being different and the emotional challenge everyone relates to on a certain level.

[00:08:10] And for me, it on extreme level because my difference is so blatant, and as a result, it has caused interactions in my life that haven’t always been support. And emotionally has been difficult for me to overcome in the way that I had to understand that, the world’s not always going to be fully accepting of my difference, and I recognize that, but ultimately it’s my journey and it’s my job to be the best version of myself.

[00:08:42] And rise to the occasion for those moments when maybe someone’s not understanding and says something very condescending to me. You know, like, Oh, that must be such a rough life, or something like that. But I can rise to the occasion and say, you know, it’s really not that tough.

[00:08:58] You could do it too. or if you were really put up to the test, you could do the same things. So that emotional, uh, challenge of being different and constantly engaging with people on a regular basis, that may not be as an understanding or em. And are more pitying and, condescending, uh, getting through those daily interactions, especially as a young person was hard to do.

[00:09:22] Now as an adult happens every day when I go out and I’m deal, I deal with that with a smile on my face. But as a young person, very, lacking and very, poorly equipped with that confidence, with thatmaturity, and to be able to deal with that. When people who are older than you who are supposed to know better will tell you things like, Oh, you’re handicapped.

[00:09:47] Or, uh oh yeah, you can’t do that. but being constantly told that over, a series of of years as a young person has a certain, effect on someone. 

[00:09:57] Zach White: Yes. Um, Just thinking of the myriad ways that what you just said shows up in the lives of people who physically don’t have any disability, but then they become, clients of mine as highly paid, quote unquote successful engineers and.

[00:10:15] There’s some part of them that a parent or a teacher or a close, you know, someone they respected, spoke that same sort of limitation into their life. You know, instead of saying you’re handicapped, it was, you know, you’re dumb or you’re, you’re not this, or you’re, nobody likes you or whatever.

[00:10:31] Mm-hmm. , and they carry that. For a long time and kind of like you described was somebody you, maybe they look at you with a look of shock or, or just surprise and it’s an immediate reminder like, Oh, I forgot I, people see me this way and these other, leaders are walking around in situations that are reminding them of that.

[00:10:49] Wound on the inside, on their heart. Mm-hmm. every day and carrying that. And I think the difference is, you know, you have created such resilience and courage and strength to not let other people’s reminding you or trying to put you in that box. Like you’re not gonna let mm-hmm. . I wanna bring that power to the engineering leader who’s listening today because there’s so much there.

[00:11:13] And maybe to start. There’s a story from your book that I think sets an important tone for this conversation and it was really great the title was the TV Thief, if I remember right. You were, you were in college and you had gotten an apartment and you had no television. Would you tell us that story?

[00:11:30] Sure. 

[00:11:32] Jessica Cox: Oh, everyone loves that story and I’m glad you bring that up cuz it’s such a good visual because like you said, Sometimes we live, live within our boxes and, and or put people in a box. And I was moving outta college and you know, we all love that time in our life when we have this just surge of independence.

[00:11:52] I’m gonna do it on my own. I’m gonna live on my own. I’m gonna conquer the world. You know, we’re just at that age in life and I was ready to move out of my parents’ house and I had everything set up to live independently in an apartment. I had some roommates to help me pay rent. But we didn’t have a television, so I called up my mom and she was working at the time, so she was really not, she didn’t have the time to talk to me.

[00:12:15] I said, Mom, can I borrow one of the TVs? She said, just go home and check in with dad. And I went home to to dad and he is retired. He stays at home all day. And he immediately said, I don’t know about that. I don’t think you should borrow one of the TVs. And that basically, I know what that means. Yeah. That means no.

[00:12:33] Yeah, that’s, You can’t borrow tv. Uhuh not happy. Yeah. . Exactly. And so I said, Well, and for me being, telling me no is basically like a challenge. I don’t know if my dad knew that I was gonna attempt to move a TV by myself that day, but when he went out to water the plants, I, uh, tore the house apart looking for something to help me move a 32 inch.

[00:12:58] Tube television out of my parents’ house with enough time that my dad wouldn’t notice. And so I went through the house looking for something with wheels, and I came across a dolly and a skateboard and all this other stuff, and I realized there it is. It’s a chair with wheels. It was a computer chair, like what we’re sitting on right now.

[00:13:18] And I’m like, Okay, I’m gonna move this tv. And I was so determin. that I never thought of this as being an impossible task. It was just about how am I gonna do this, and how am I gonna do this quickly without damaging the tv? So I had to get that TV on the chair. Somehow using my shoulders and my legs and kicking it off that stand and getting it.

[00:13:39] It wasn’t a flat screen or anything. It was one of those tube televisions Oh, wow. Back in the day. And I managed to get on this chair. Those heavy, Those are great. Yeah. And they were heavy. It wasn’t just a tv, it was a TV slash vcr, one of those. Oh my goodness. So it was even heavier. And I remember just getting it off the stand on the chair and I got it out.

[00:13:59] And it was one of those classic moments where like, I did it. I, I can’t believe I did this. I got to the very, very end. And when I got to my car with this TV on a chair, guess who was standing right there? And it was my dad. And it was, it was just timing. It was perfect timing for him to see me sweating.

[00:14:20] You know, driven to get this TV out, stealing a TV from the living room. And he looked at me and he said, Oh my gosh, if I had known you wanted it that bad, I could have helped you . there was a moment of, if you really are driven enough and you’ll figure out a way, 

[00:14:36] Zach White: there’s two golden nuggets in that story beyond just the visual of like, If I tied my hands behind my back and had to move a 32 inch cathode ray tube, I’m not sure that’s intense.

[00:14:48] But um, the first thing you said when you hear a no for you, that’s a challenge. Tell me more about that principle in your life. 

[00:15:00] if you were to probably see someone without arms and you’ve never known my story, I think that the automatic, assumption would be no, you can’t do the things.

[00:15:12] Jessica Cox: Yeah. And so that is what I was faced with since day one, and I had to learn at a very young age that people are gonna tell me no, and that it’s gonna be my opportunity to say yes and watch. So it was an adapt,necessity that I had to develop as a young person to survive and for survival.

[00:15:37] And it turned out to be a great asset because as an adult there were a lot of things stacked against me. And that’s true for anyone, but I had a better system in place and years of practice with my resilience. Yeah, that it was easier. It is easier in a way for me now as an adult because of what I had to deal with as a young person.

[00:15:58] Zach White: Before I leave this, I am curious for those of us who are adults and didn’t have that kind of mindset and opportunity to over. let me rephrase that. We had a lot of opportunities too, but we didn’t, cuz we didn’t have that kind of mindset and intensity and drive. What would you say to somebody who does not think that way today?

[00:16:20] Is that something you would recommend? They go pursue, like, look, stop taking no. As the final answer. And if so, How do they begin to shift to thinking and believing the way? 

[00:16:33] Jessica Cox: I think it starts with stretching people’s comfort zones by doing things that they wouldn’t necessarily do, by being uncomfortable in a position that makes it, a learning experience.

[00:16:47] So seeking out those opportunities to build your resilience, to make yourself uncomfortable, to go to maybe another country. And have to fend for yourself and deal with a challenge or be confronted with something that makes you a little scare, scared. it will really bring out such resilience and character.

[00:17:09] Zach White: I agree. , I’m just, We could almost end the podcast right now. It’s like, Yes. That is so good. And I love, So the second point I mentioned, there’s two golden nuggets to me in the story. I love how you said, you know, I, I turned my dad’s no into a yes because of my determination, my, my desire to make this happen.

[00:17:29] He’s like, if if I knew it was this important to you, I would’ve given it to you right outta the gate. I’m curious for you, like is there any reason why you think humans are so drawn into. The passion and drive and determination of someone. So in this case, it’s you influencing your dad’s, decision or his support of you.

[00:17:49] And I think you’ve proven it over and over again in your journey, but it’s true in a lot of stories. We could pick different examples where someone’s singular determination and desire changes someone else’s perspective to say, Well, I, I’m going to support you. there’s just something about that that draws us in.

[00:18:07] Why do you think that? 

[00:18:09] Jessica Cox: I think it, boils down to the why as well as to the individuals, why they’re doing something. if someone is so passionate, so driven, so convicted in doing something, it’s contagious. And if you can find that with whatever it is you’re doing, you’ll create followers along the way or people who want to be a part.

[00:18:33] and enrolled or engaged with it. Hmm. So each individual has their own why and their own passion for doing something. and if it’s authentic with that person, then other people will see that and be excited. Like, how, how is this person so excited about this? I gotta get involved with this or do this and, and you can’t help but wanna share it with someone.

[00:18:55] And that’s, I think, what makes other people, really wanna get on board with what you’re. . 

[00:19:02] Zach White: Totally, totally. I love that. the contagious effect. I’ve, I feel that even with you, like I watch what you’re doing and it makes me wanna support you. It’s like, I’ve got my own thing over here, but just when I’m with you, I feel that energy.

[00:19:15] I feel it right now. in your own journey, Jessica, has that been natural for you? It always, you, we found that place of here’s my why and my purpose. The desire and the drive just flows, or do you have to nurture that and take care of that? It’s not always present. And if so, how do you do that? 

[00:19:36] Jessica Cox: I think that definitely everyone has to nurture their why, um, to a certain level and, and really reconnect with the purpose of what they’re doing and what, and if it’s alignment with what they want to accomplish.

[00:19:49] it’s not always easy cuz we get distracted easily. I get distracted very easily. So, um, keeping focus is something that you have to do by either nurturing it through, meditation, thinking things through, reflection, giving some time to yourself to visualize what you’re trying to do.

[00:20:11] Jessica Cox: I’m very much a visual person and I believe in that.

[00:20:14] and, and it keeps you, keeps you on target. 

[00:20:17] Zach White: I love that. So, Jessica, we could pick from dozens of really amazing aspects of your story, but the one that you are best :known for, you know, the engineer and me and certainly the engineering leaders in the Happy Engineer audience will appreciate going deeper into you being the first armless.

[00:20:39] And your love for aviation and flying and really quick, I’m curious, what was it first that prompted you to choose, I wanna be a pilot? where did the seed of that get planted? 

[00:20:51] Jessica Cox: Well, the seed of wanting to fly was that desire as a child to break free of the limitations that people put on me.

[00:21:00] I’m sure there are a ton of children out there that have the superhero vision of, of being the one to save the day and, and they want that sense of, empowerment for one reason or another. For me, it was because limitations were put on me and I wanted to break free of that. So for me it was as a child envisioning that I could fly over my play.

[00:21:23] I’m sure there are other children who envision those superhero type images. I wanted to do that so much that I didn’t know then as a young person, that it would translate to me, becoming a pilot and doing something that no one had ever done before. Learning to fly a plane with my feet. But going back to what makes you feel uncomfortable flying, made me very uncom.

[00:21:47] Jessica Cox: It was terrifying. And I was Passenger, you mean to 

[00:21:50] Zach White: As a passenger. 

[00:21:51] Jessica Cox: Okay. Yes, and being in a commercial plane, uh, as a child, I was terrified. So I didn’t know how it was gonna translate to becoming a pilot in command of an aircraft. it’s interesting how I wanted to conquer my fear as well. conquering my fear was, was something that I thought could align with what I do as a speaker and speak all over the world and share that message that you shouldn’t let fear stand in the way of an opportunity.

[00:22:19] And so I went out there and did it for two purposes breaking free of the limitations that others put on me as a young person. And to speak to that for other people with disabilities around the world, to show that disability doesn’t mean inability and also to help others who battle with their own fears and showing that you can’t conquer your fear.

[00:22:41] Zach White: Let’s talk about fear for a second. my company, Jessica’s Oasis of Courage, and I hold this belief that’s really aligned with what you just said, that while fear wears a thousand different masks in our life, the thing that holds the engineering leaders back from the success and the happiness and the fulfillment that they dream about, uh, who end up working with Oaco.

[00:23:06] it’s, you don’t have the courage to face those fears and take action even though you think it’s a, a technical problem or you think it’s an executive communication problem or, you know, we have our intellectual ways of describing fear, but, uh, I think it’s a root cause of what holds us back in life.

[00:23:22] Zach White: And so, can you just tell us your perspective? the role that fear is playing and holding us back, and what is courage and how all this, the looks in your own journey, or how would you describe that to someone, just from what you’ve discovered? 

[00:23:39] Jessica Cox: Oh, well, one of the things I, I love to share is that, you know, true courage in my opinion is.

[00:23:45] Being so confident in my own skin and my own body that the threat of rejection doesn’t pose, a barrier to me. And that was something I had to learn. That definition of courage and what it means to me in being confident in living out my life. and it definitely comes out in different ways, like flying planes and, doing these things.

[00:24:08] Or kind of on the edge, like surfing or, skydiving and, and doing these things that most people wouldn’t always jump at or, or be excited about. But I really love it. It just, it, it energizes me in a way to do something that scares me a little. And, and then yeah, to get on the other side of fear and said, Yeah, I was afraid, but I.

[00:24:30] and this surge of confidence comes from that. 

[00:24:33] Zach White: Would you please say that definition again, because that was really powerful and unique from what a lot of guests on our show share about what courage is. 

[00:24:43] Jessica Cox: Courage for me personally is having the confidence to be proud of the person I am and in my own skin, regardless of the threat of rejection.

[00:24:57] Zach White: That is so good. You’re triggering for me something one of my mentors shared with me that I think is so true and it’s not common to discuss that. Lots of people say and think and truly believe that they’re afraid of failure, but. It’s not really failure that tends to stand in the way. It’s the rejection and the social consequence of being seen as a failure of other people looking at me as a failure, that I’m actually afraid of the judgment, the rejection, the shame, and I think your definition is so spot on.

[00:25:35] If, if you’re a courageous leader, it’s a such a deep confidence that that threat won’t stop. I, mm-hmm. , I’m so jazzed by this, uh, by that definition. I, I love that. and actually I wrote this down, I, I a bunch of quotes from your book that were really powerful. I just captured in case they came up or I wanted to go deeper and one of this is a perfect fit.

[00:25:58] You said, My commitment to become a pilot was an act of. most people don’t think about a commitment as courageous. They would say, Well, you did it. You flew the plane. You became the pilot. That was courageous. But you said your commitment to do it was courageous. Can you draw a distinction for us?

[00:26:18] Why? Why is commitment an act of courage? 

[00:26:22] Jessica Cox: Well, commitment for me is, is definitely not just saying I’m gonna do it, but do taking on something and really fully doing it to the end. a lot of times we say yes to a lot of things, but whether that’s committed or not, or are we fully in it? are we truly doing this and or are we just saying something?

[00:26:44] I think that all that has to play, come into play when you make a commitment to do something. Hmm. 

[00:26:52] Zach White: All the way. Mm-hmm. all the way. I love this So armless pilot and I wanna put the link to your documentary in the show notes. And I encourage people, if, you wanna go explore Jessica’s whole story, go watch and, read the book and get, get into it.

[00:27:08] Cause you won’t regret investing that time. It’s so, so powerful. But I would love to spend some time talking about your current project. A plane designed for someone who’s flying with their feet. Tell us what’s going on there. Set the stage and where we’re at with all that work you’re doing. Okay, 

[00:27:28] Jessica Cox: so we are so excited because, uh, we just found out the horizontal stabilizer and the, another part of the airplane is, is, is finished, but we are taking on building a kit airplane, which for those who are not familiar with building a plane, Kit planes take about 2000 hours to build.

[00:27:47] Some people say you build one airplane a lifetime. Other pilots have proven differently, or mechanics have proven differently. They’ve built one or two or three or four planes depending on how many hours you have and you wanna put into it. Well, we wanted to build an RV 10 airplane, which is a four seater kit airplane, and not only build it with those 2000.

[00:28:08] But also modify the left seat because the left seat is a piling command seat. Typically, you can fly from the right seat cuz there’s dual controls, but we’re gonna make it so that the left seat can be flown with just feet. this will be the first plane in history that can be designed in that way so that someone can comfortably fly.

[00:28:29] Um, I know you’re probably wondering, well, don’t you already fly a plane? Yeah, I do fly a plane with my feet, but it is in a very precarious way with my feet up on the yolk. Which is like the steering wheel. My other foot on the throttle, which is like the gas and precariously with a lot of ab work, I use my legs to control a plane, but now we’re building a plane that will be comfortable for foot flight, for bipedal flight so that I can put my feet on the floor and in a relaxed position, fly the plane in a way that has never been done.

[00:29:02] And that’s what’s the exciting project. We, we are calling Project 20 25, The Impossible Airplane. Uh, if you break down impossible, it’s impossible and people can follow it on the impossible , 

[00:29:16] Zach White: this is so fun and really quick because people are, if they’re not familiar with your story, they probably are wondering, so what kind of plane did you fly already?

[00:29:25] Can you really quickly explain, You know, there’s only a couple models that have, Sure. You know, as far as rudder, et cetera. Just really quick for people who don’t know. 

[00:29:33] Jessica Cox: Sure. The plane that I’m certified to fly right now is called an air coop airplane. It’s a 1945 post World War ii. So this is like a vintage plane, all the basic controls.

[00:29:45] But what’s unique about this plane, it is the only airplane that was designed in the thirties and forties, well designed in the thirties, built in the forties that can have, essentially two. Can fly a plane because the ailerons and rudders are interconnected. I know that sounds like weird for some people who are not familiar with airplane design, but it’s essentially allowing for dual control of an airplane versus you sit in an airplane at the year’s airfield, it’s probably a Cessna, and it requires all four limbs.

[00:30:16] It requires the feed on the pedals, the hand on the yolk, and the other hand on the throttle. While this playing the earth co. Was designed so you can fly it with just two active limbs on the controls. Yeah. So that’s why I can use both feet. 

[00:30:29] Zach White: It’s uh, really amazing to see the pictures. To your point about precarious position mm-hmm.

[00:30:35] it definitely is precarious. So, and you can geek out with, with the happy engineers, because you know, most folks are gonna know what an Aron is, and if they don’t, they’re the kind of people who are gonna go find out after this. And so, Great. Tell us from a design perspective, what is the, at least high level, the intention the new design.

[00:30:54] Can you tell us, like, how are you handling? Sure. Are you separating letters and arons on this plane and there’s multiple pedals, or like, how, how are you all solving this problem? 

[00:31:03] Jessica Cox: Well, we’re trying to bring the controls for simplifying as well, but keeping the three axis of control, which is typical.

[00:31:12] Um, so. We’re gonna bring the controls, not only down on the floor, but we’re gonna design it. Of course, this is a team of people, team of engineers from like the University of Arizona, some engineers who have these creative ideas that have come together. one in particular who is, amazing. He’s using a 3D printer to do some of these mockups and things.

[00:31:36] but they’re gonna be essentially so that I. Use my legs On what? Kind of like a joystick, you know, where I can move, move it around. And while this is on the floor, it’s just a rod on the floor and I’m moving it around by either, using my toes, we’re probably gonna do some controls with my toes, but say for example, moving my legs forward and back mm-hmm.

[00:32:02] Jessica Cox: and twisting my legs, like maybe you would, um, I don’t know how to compare this, but anyway, um, so I’m using my leg movements to activate these controls on the air. 

[00:32:15] Zach White: It’s amazing. I, I’m so excited to see this come to life and, tell us, Jessica, what does the project need most? Where do you all need the most help?

[00:32:24] Just in case some happy engineer out there listening, you know, has a solution or a great idea, they can reach out and share with you. Where are you at and what do you need the most help with? 

[00:32:34] Jessica Cox: We need a lot of help. And, we’ve already had a wonderful volunteer who’s building the standard kit in New Jersey, with his EAA Experimental Aviation, Association chapter.

[00:32:47] And that’s being built, which is a huge chunk. I mean, that’s 2000 hours. Um, but the designs themselves or wherever we need some creative, some people who have these idea. who may have some aeronautical knowledge or, or maybe a pilot themselves and see how this can work together. So that’s why we have some input, that we can receive on the website, the impossible, as well as people who may want to help us in other capacities.

[00:33:16] We need support all around, because it is pretty ambitious and it’s gonna take at least two and a half years to do. 

[00:33:24] Zach White: Amazing. So, you know, if you wanna, you the happy engineer listening right now, if you wanna be a part of this journey and share ideas, please hit the website, reach out to Jessica and, and put more wind in their sales, so to speak, to get this done.

[00:33:38] And, uh, I can’t wait to see it. It’s gonna be amazing. I’d love to spend more time digging into the nerdy stuff, Jessica, cuz it’s so, so fun. But I do wanna be respectful of your time and, uh, maybe lay the plane here on our conversation. But tell me for you, what is it in your heart that you really want people to know?

[00:33:59] You know, when you think about your life and your story and the work you do as an amazing keynote speaker in, in motivational speaking, and if you’re gonna boil it down, what do you want us to. . 

[00:34:10] that’s a wonderful question and, and I could probably spend all day answering it. I think I’m gonna, since we last spoke about the airplane, I’m gonna talk about what we want the world to know by building this plane and how we want to get the message out there that disability doesn’t mean inability.

[00:34:28] Jessica Cox: And disability is definitely, you know, defined in, in one own interpretation. So, we’re getting this airplane out and designing something that’s never been done before so that we can fly it around and target those like children who are very, what’s the word? They’re very, uh, Impressionable. Yeah.

[00:34:47] And helping them to see what’s possible in their lives, children with disabilities, children who have been limited or labeled, and also ultimately change that perspective Society’s expectations for them because, I have been given op opportunities, um, from getting an education, getting a degree in college, starting my own business, flying a plane, and the list goes on.

[00:35:11] And I’ve never been, I’ve been held back to a certain degree, but then again, having the right attitude has allowed me to go forward and do things. But there are really places in the world where people with disabilities are not even allowed to go to school. they’re. Institutionalized still where people with disabilities are not allowed to have a job or, have these basic needs met or not considered worthy of being loved.

[00:35:38] And it’s just really, important to get the message out to the world that they are worthy of, of being loved and worthy of doing these incredible things. I think this airplane is gonna be a means of getting the message around the world. 

[00:35:54] Zach White: I’m a little glassy eyed here, hearing you describe that and yes, worthy, just as worthy as any other.

[00:36:04] Soul on this planet. So thank you Jessica. That’s really powerful. I don’t normally do this and you know, for the happy engineer out there, Jessica did not ask me to do this, but, you have a not-for-profit organization as part of what you do. Is that right? Yes. So if someone feels inspired, maybe they’re not in aerospace or aeronautical engineering, But they just wanna support that message in the world.

[00:36:26] can they, you know, write a check and just say, Please continue and, and do more of what, what, what would that look like if someone wants to support you financially? 

[00:36:34] Jessica Cox: Wow. Well, that would mean I, I appreciate the question because of course we have to, to be able to cover that as well, to be able to do these wonderful things, to be able to reach people in other countries and around the world.

[00:36:49] And we have a 5 0 1 C three right Footed Foundation international. And you can go to my website, jessica and find out more about that. So feel free to visit there and, and reach out to us. We’re, we’re, I mean, we’re very accessible all over the web and whether it’s social media or the website for direct contact, feel free to reach out and I would appreciate all the support, We’re on this mission to really change the world and that perspective. 

[00:37:18] Zach White: Amazing. And for everyone out there, you know, your company may have matching or have opportunities to be a part of that as well. So if you feel inspired to support Jessica and the work they’re doing, please, please do take action.

[00:37:31] Don’t sit on that. Jessica, thank you so much for your time and I always end in the same place here and I’m excited to hear your thoughts. But one of the beliefs that I hold is that great engineering, uh, just like great coaching has in common, that questions lead. Answers follow. And if we want better answers in our lives, we wanna ask better questions.

[00:37:53] And so for the happy engineer who’s out there, they’ve been listening to this conversation, you know, they wanna shift from that impossible, limited type of thinking to a anything’s possible. the things I dream about I can achieve. What would be the best question that you would lead them with? Mm.

[00:38:15] Jessica Cox: Something that came to mind right away is what’s holding you back.

[00:38:21] Zach White: I love it. What’s holding you back? There you go. Engineers, go ask the question. Jessica, thank you so much. This has been absolutely tremendous. I do look forward to having you back on the show to share about your first flight in the new plane when we get that far into the future, and hopefully much sooner than that to continue to support and discover more about your incredible journey.

[00:38:47] And, just thank you so much for making time today. This has been awesome. 

[00:38:50] Jessica Cox: Thank you Zach, and Thank you for what you do.