Linda B. Keene, MBA

Hey there! It’s your homegirl, CoachLeahTM, and let me I tell you I'm bursting at the seams at the thought of being able to celebrate events and accomplishments, as well as share thought provoking stories. This is a dream come true.

Over the next coming weeks, we will celebrate Twin Cities Excellence in Sports and take a look at a few notable former athletes currently residing in the Twin Cities metroplex and making a community impact through their careers and/or philanthropy.

Credited to Mark Twain and Helen Burns, it’s been said and requoted in various ways by several prominent theologians, hall-of-fame coaches, and other thought leaders that the two most important events in your life are #1 – The day you were born and #2 – The moment you realized your purpose. I would suggest we add #3 – The day you’re able to actualize and curate your purpose in a meaningful way that blesses and honors the lives of others.

I am committed daily, to being my best self and in service to others. Back in 2000, when we launched the Diamonds in the Rough Showcase and Celebrity Shootout, I demonstrated my commitment [a genuine attempt] to giving back and honoring the community members that embraced me as a teen and young adult. What I did not acknowledge at that time, but what most definitely made a huge impact, was the fact that while I was seamlessly moving into corporate and non-profit opportunities as I began my pursuit of an MBA, there were those who became my mentors in those business and academic spaces that noticed the values of my acumen and pushed me out of my comfort zone. One such person that I will highlight now is Mrs. Linda B. Keene, MBA.

Keene, one of my personal and professional mentors – former Vice President at American Express Financial Services – would often invite me to meet with her at her office in the downtown Minneapolis. These meetings [like mini seminars full of teachable moments] were rarely no longer than one hour and exposed me my first example of a successfully female led Fortune 100 corporate environment. What really sticks out in my memory was how effectively she communicated with me in our mentee/mentor relationship. There was always a practical application for my next steps after each session with Mrs. Keene.

During an advisory and resume writing session shortly after I moved back home after competing in the NCAA Tournament and exhausting my college eligibility, I was a bit frustrated trying to list skills, accomplishments, and a solid work history to date.  Sensing my angst, Keene said the following to me in the most “matter of fact” yet nurturing tone;

“Do not rest on your past laurels.”

The so called “accomplishments” I listed heavily outweighed my work history list – for obvious reasons.

Don’t get me wrong, we should always be extremely proud of our accolades and achievements from the past – it is what lays the foundation and often helps open doors for future opportunities However, once we make it through the threshold, we must build upon the foundation continuously– utilizing the skills learned through athletics and applying them to new goals and achievements.

My questions - What type of jobs can I apply for? What career do I pursue? What do I write down on paper? Athletics had played such a primary role in majority of my life up until then. The answer - that I have grown to realize - is that sports will be one chapter in an anthology of one’s life experiences. Keene’s advisement was meant to inspire me to use the same focus and passion in my professional and service leadership spaces that I had formerly used to compete at a high level in athletics. 

In a very recent conversation where I shared how I am immensely grateful for her continued mentorship, Keene reminded me that in regard to mentoring, we must continue to “pay it forward.” I felt a sense of unexplainable joy when Keene added, “Which is what you have been and are doing, Leah,” before ending our conversation.

I accepted her compliment even though it triggered my imposter syndrome. I am beginning to accept compliments a bit more graciously at this stage of my life. I challenge you all to do the same. Especially if your body of work can validate the kind words being said about you. You ARE worthy!

Celebrating Twin Cities Excellence in Sports will be ongoing here at Insight News – Sports. Check back often as we share individuals who have moved past their athletics participation and achievements and into fulfilling careers and commitments to “pay it forward.” Will your favorite hometown former athlete make the list?  Stay tuned for “Pay It Forward!” PT 2, in Insight News-Sports – home to CoachLeah’s After the Whistle.

Remember to find Conversations with Al McFarlane on Facebook, LinkedIn and subscribe to Insight News on YouTube. CoachLeah’s After the Whistle – The Vodcast is coming soon!

Sincerely yours in Sports and Service!


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