This is for all the freelancers and service providers out there who are currently struggling to get by.

For the business owners sitting there, paralyzed by fear and doubt. Needing to take action, but terrified to.

This is for every work-at-home hopeful, looking a that sales page for a new course, thinking maybe this will be it. This will be the one. This time, I’ll fix it. (And by it, you mean your business. But by it you also mean “me”.)

This is for everyone who is hustling and hammering away and seeing only mediocre results.

This is for everyone who is blocked and stuck and can’t seem to get out of their own way. The ones locked into patterns of two steps forward, one step back. Subconscious resistance an elastic band snapping you back to where you began.

But mostly, this is for me.

***

I love anime.

I grew up on bad English translations of Sailor Moon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Naruto. (And Inuyasha and Beyblade…and you probably get the picture.)

There is something magical about the hero narrative — the “chosen one”. Rising against all odds to save the world — regardless of how flawed or imperfect they are. Princess Serenity. The Heart of the Cards. All that crap.

I lived for those shows when I was younger. They were a balm on a soul that didn’t know why it was traumatized. Why it was hurt and scared and anxious all the time.

As I grew, my taste changed. Evolved.

I started watching subs (subtitled anime with the original Japanese audio) instead of dubs (anime with English voices “dubbed” over top of the animation). I went looking for stories that were more complex. More nuanced. Stories where the heroism was less straightforward. Where making the right choice wasn’t clear. Where good and evil weren’t always clear cut. Or if they were, where methods and consequences and moral ambiguity and questions of ethics were in play.

And I thought, for a long time, that I was done. That I’d cured my need for hero stories.

And then I discovered sports anime.

It’s a sub-genre of anime, much like sports movies are a sub-genre of Hollywood. But instead of revolving around “based on a true story” long-shot athletes, most sports anime is about high school sports teams, playing one sport or another. Certain character types are almost always present, and the team always struggles to come to together but finally does in the end.

And, depending on the anime, they don’t always win.

Something about sports anime speaks to that part of me that still wants a hero story.

It speaks to that little girl who still craves a wand and a tiara and a compact mirror that transforms me into my super-self to face the obviously-very-evil bad guys.

Moon prism power…MAKE UP!!

Sports anime was just another guilty indulgence. My version of Jersey Shore or Keeping Up With The Kardashians or the Real Housewives of how-the-fuck-many-cities-do-they-have-now?

My guilty pleasure treat. So over the top and ridiculous it could make me smile even in the middle of a panic attack.

And then Yuri!!! On Ice happened.

Official promotional art for Yuri!!! On Ice

A sports anime not about a high-school sports team, but professional figure skaters. A sports anime where the sport served as both a backdrop to and the medium for one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve ever seen.

After a disastrous performance in the Grand Prix Final, Yuuri Katsuki heads back home to his hometown of Hasetsu, unsure if he wants to continue figure skating. Then, one day, out of the blue, Yuri’s idol and five-time world champion Victor Nikiforov shows up at Yuuri’s door, declaring that he’s going to coach Yuri.

The series follows the two of them and their growing relationship through the next competitive skating season. Over the course of 12 episodes, Yuri faces off against friends, rivals, and his worst enemy of them all: himself.

Yuri’s biggest flaw throughout the entire series, the thing that makes him not-quite-a-hero and more of a main character is his anxiety.

He’s lost countless competitions — including last year’s Grand Prix Final — because of his anxiety. While his performances are beautiful, he consistently messes up his jumps, lowering his score.

Despite enthralling step sequences, a killer work ethic, and some good old fashioned natural talent, Yuri keeps failing because of his anxiety.

Under Victor’s tutelage, Yuri blossoms. He grows and takes charge of his career in a way he never would have before. He breaks his personal best. Lands two new jumps. Performs at a level that he didn’t think possible for himself

And then, in the last episode, at this year’s Grand Prix Final, Victor says something to him. Something that hit me so deeply I had to pause.

I didn’t see it before, probably partly because I wasn’t ready, but also because I’d been watching the subtitled anime online. After I got the box set, though, I watched in English. (Victor’s Russian accent is hilarious.)

And what I heard changed me.

A the Grand Prix Final, right before he’s about to take the ice for his free program, Yuri says something to Victor about doing his best.

Victor, the five-time-in-a-row world champion and last year’s grand prix winner, sighs and asks Yuri a question.

I took a break after becoming the five time world champion to coach you. So how is it possible that you still haven’t won a gold medal? How much longer are you going to stay in warmup mode?”

How much longer are you going to stay in warmup mode.

I’ve watched that scene many times, and the Japanese version of that line had no effect on me.

But the English…

How much longer are you going to stay in warmup mode.

Yuri Katsuki is an extremely talented skater, dedicated to his sport. Constantly ground down by a crushing anxiety, the conviction of not being as good as everyone else, and the fear of letting other people down. The fear of being judged a failure.

I’m Yuri Katsuki.

Yuri Katsuki, crying in a bathroom stall. It’s okay Yuri, I’ve been there too.

I’ve spent my entire life being told how amazing I am, by peers and coworkers and teachers and bosses and employers and friends. How kind and pretty and talented. And yet, with all of that, I’m still just barely scraping by.

After three years in business I’m just figuring out what I actually do and how that makes the lives of my clients better.

After three years in business I’m only just barely starting to get my systems setup.

After three years in business, I’m still not making that much.

After three years in business…I’m still in warmup mode.

I’m still in warmup mode.

I could give you all the whys. I could tell you all my reasons for still being in warmup mode.

But they’re just distractions. Excuses.

After three years, I’m still in warmup mode and damn, if that isn’t a hard pill to swallow.

But a necessary one.

How much longer are you going to stay in warmup mode?

I want to write three words. Three words that are simultaneously both the most honest words I have, a huge lie, and my biggest excuse.

I want to say: I don’t know.

That’s bullshit. A refusal to step up.

How much longer are you going to stay in warmup mode?

No longer.