Take the Wheel and Drive

By Hazel Bernez


Despite the title, this has nothing to do with driving. The words are a figure of speech to drive a point home (oops, there we go again) about combatting fear. “Drive”, written and performed by Incubus, in 1999, has a cool melody and catchy instrumentation, not to mention an accompanying video (remember those things?) that made it easy to overlook the message.  It was only recently, while in the empty-minded state that gym treadmills seem to encourage, that the words permeated my boredom enough to give the song another real listen. I was struck by how the lyrics resonate for so many situations, be they personal, or from a work and career perspective. Fear, the underlying “bad guy” in this song, is that hard-wired emotion that’s ultimately meant to keep us safe in dangerous situations.  It colours choices, delays or compels sudden action, but if left unchecked, can trigger anxiety that can runs amok and results in total inaction, achieving the very opposite of keeping us secure.


Blog Post - Matthew HenryImage courtesy of Matthew Henry


Fear of uncertainty

In the first verse, we hear:

Sometimes, I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can't help but ask myself how much I'll let the fear
Take the wheel and steer

Facing uncertainty, whether it’s weighing up taking a new role within your current organization, or of deciding to let go of an employee who no longer meshes with your company values, or introducing new rules and methodologies that have the potential to alter the workplace culture, can introduce a level of anxiety. That uncertainty, if allowed to persist, can usher in complete stagnation, causing us to ask the same questions, round and round in our fearful brains:

  • Should I just leave things as they are? 
  • Will this really work?
  • Yeah, but how long will this take?
  • OMG, what did I just do?
  • Will the change be beneficial?
  • Does this mean I failed?
  • Should I just leave things as they are?
  • OMG, what did I just do?


The way to tackle the uncertainty beast is to acknowledge the fear and make a plan, especially if you include someone you know and trust during the planning stage.  Planning ahead and following through with step-by-step decisions can help ease you out of this fear rut. Making a plan with someone else can also provide a fresh perspective to the situation that can help allay or banish fears.  Find out what the realities are instead of ruminating about the unknown. The ability to execute a decision, even small ones, leads to satisfaction that your hands are at least on the wheel, you’re ready to make a move and in a better position to view the direction of the road ahead (figuratively speaking).  It’s okay to not know; it’s not okay to stop trying to know. 

Fear of rejection

Verse 2 of the song leads with:

It's driven me before
And it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal….

And there it is – misery loves company. You might not like what’s going on in your job, with a manager, or amongst a group of peers, but you don’t want to be alone in voicing an opinion or the one pointing out an issue. The potential for rejection is huge and the resulting consequences can be … scary.  The fear of standing out alone is primal – we see it in the animal world all the time: safety in numbers - better to stick with the crowd than to stand in the spotlight alone!  


A solution to wrangle this dread: examine what rejection really means to you and focus instead on how you’d like to be viewed.  Rejection is merely a “no”; it doesn’t mean you’re not valued, or that you don’t have something important to say, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong, and it doesn’t necessarily mean ostracism.  In a poor work environment, or struggling with a flawed work process, voicing an opinion posed with a solution, will almost always be viewed positively.  That’s not to say that your solution will be automatically implemented, but at the very least, an initial rejection may lead to more conversation down the road, recognition for problem solving, a realisation of an issue that no-one else had the moxie to undertake and, even better, it will provide you with a boost of confidence – the antidote to fear.



Fear of change

As much as some of us bemoan routine, the ability to openly welcome or seek change is rare.  Change requires curiosity, flexibility of mind, action, or habits, and a willingness to face discomfort.  As a leader, seeing a need for change doesn’t mean your vision will be embraced or welcomed by those around you.  But we all know the old adage – change is inevitable, so as with many of the other fears in the workplace, you first have to look the monster in the eyes.  What does change represent for you? Is it:

  • that you won’t be able to adjust?
  • that you might fail?
  • uncertainty (see above)?
  • being left behind or left out (see above)?


Yes, fear of change is a big one and encompasses a couple of those dreads we looked at earlier.  And yet, for a business to thrive and grow, change must happen. “Drive” lead vocalist, Brandon, sings:

So if I decide to waiver my chance
To be one of the hive
Will I choose water over wine
And hold my own and drive?

Making the sensible but not as stimulating choice in order to change from being one of the hive members to striking out on his own course – now that’s meeting change head-on! It’s normal to feel nervous or resistant to change because it is wrapped up with that first fear – uncertainty.  Change doesn’t have to mean a lack of control - in fact, it can provide the opposite. Change can be an opportunity for defining your role differently, of taking advantage of openings that didn’t exist before, for creating a niche for which you might be better suited. As with uncertainty, tackle the fear of change by acknowledging it, sizing it up, and making a step-by-step plan of how and where you can thrive in this new scenario.


What fears do you or your team wrestle with? Do you recognize or battle any of the points we’ve touched on? Add to the conversation and see, if as the song goes, ...  I am beginning to find that when I drive myself my light is found.

Blog Post - Drive by Incubus

Click through to listen to and view the "Drive" music video by Incubus.