Photo courtesy of Cody Clegg
Marathon’s workhorse technician Cody Clegg still finds time to spend quality time with his son at home.

The delicate art of overachieving

Dec. 21, 2023

Last issue I asked our readers to nominate someone they work with who deserves recognition for their stellar performance. The idea stemmed from meeting so many hard-working professionals in the course of reporting and going to various events and shop visits. The timeline for nominations was rather brief—about a month—so we weren’t flooded with emails but did get a steady enough stream of candidates to make the decision tough for our judges, which included our staff and advisory board.

Interviewing each of the six winners made it clear these folks all fit the bill as overachievers, even if they were surprised (and maybe a bit bashful) about being named such a thing. To them, all the long hours and hard work were part of the job—just fulfilling their duties of keeping the transportation industry moving and their families fed and happy. Nothing special really.

Read more: A recovering workaholic's guide to self-maintenance

And that’s exactly what makes them special. They are truly their shop’s workhorses, pulling the load to get that truck back on the road by any means necessary. For Cox Automotive mobile technician leader Ryan Ziegler, that means driving all over the Pacific Northwest to help his techs troubleshoot an aftertreatment system or replace a cab door. In the case of Regina Zahm, a former pediatric cancer ward nurse turned Great Dane service coordinator, it’s refusing to quit when finding a part or service vehicle gets tough, or defusing volatile situations with patience even when an angry customer has lost theirs. And for construction leasing company Sukut Equipment, Colby Coleman tirelessly hunts for new ways to improve efficiency and thwart catalytic converter thieves.

It’s also amazing how, after a hard day’s work, these apex professionals will go home to work even more. Cody Clegg pulls 60+ hours a week for Marathon Petroleum, servicing crude oil haulers across Utah, and then goes into dad-mode with his four kids, teaching them how to hunt, fish, and ride dirt bikes and horses. In Kansas, Travis Reekie maintains his entire city’s municipal fleet and then heads home to tend to a 300-acre farm. This includes maintaining equipment there, too. 

Overachieving on an individual level is one thing, but passing on experience and work ethic truly makes a hard worker even more valuable. Dewey Bishop taught himself how to rebuild engines and service trucks. And as technical trainer for Ozark Motor Lines, he now spends his time showing the maintenance department’s 68 techs the right way to do things. Major tenets include fixing things right the first time and chasing recurring issues to identify systemic root causes.

A word of advice for those who manage overachievers like this, though. Make sure they strike a balance between work and home life. These employees appear rich in modesty and tenacity but didn’t strike me as the type to complain about workloads. They see a difficult challenge as a new opportunity to solve something—and your challenge is to make sure they maintain their health and sanity.

In my line of work, I had to accept this when dealing with a heart attack earlier this year. Sometimes after I take my foot off the gas for a while, I come close to redlining again in a race against myself to make every issue better than the last. It’s worse after winning two national writing awards in October (and picking up an honorable mention for writing about said heart attack).

The stress of my unchecked ambition earned me two horrific days in the E.R. Tests showed my chest pain was a false alarm, but hanging in a waiting room with a nail-in-the-eye guy for a few hours and then several more near a massive-head-wound grandma in the E.R. hallway gave me some clarity—for now. I want to be able to highlight the good and the bad (like pushing electric trucks before their time) in our industry for many years to come, so I need to do a better job at overachieving in realistic expectations and stress management. My family needs food on their table, too. And because it’s easier to offer advice than to take it, my boss now monitors my online status at night, threatening to call my wife when I won’t log off.

And I’ll end with that, along with my thanks to you for reading our magazine, whether for the first time or the hundredth, and sincere wishes that you have a healthy and stress-free holiday season.