The Retirement Wisdom Podcast

The Retirement Wisdom Podcast

Edit Your Life – Elisabeth Sharp McKetta

September 10, 2023

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How does it feel when you read a book that’s been well edited? What if you brought an editor’s mindset to your life? Elizabeth Sharp McKetta knows the benefits of smart editing and shares what she’s learned about applying those principles to how we live. Listen in – and learn how to edit your life.



Elizabeth Sharp McKetta is a storyteller and the author of thirteen books across genres, including Edit Your Life and She Never Told Me About the Ocean. She has published many poems and delivered the TEDx talk “Edit your life like a poem.”

She has literature degrees from Harvard (B.A.), Georgetown (M.A.), and the University of Texas at Austin (Ph.D). She wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on the intersections between memoir and myth, a concept that informs her teaching and writing (and her entire way of looking at the world!) She teaches for the Harvard Extension School Writing Program, Oxford University’s Diploma in Creative Writing, and the Book Year Writer’s Circle.

Elisabeth grew up in Austin, Texas and lives with her family in Boise, Idaho; they travel widely. In her free time, she loves to make up stories her with young children  hike, read, make vegan soups, make new friends, and drink tea with old friends.


For More on Elizabeth Sharp McKetta

Edit Your Life: A Handbook for Living with Intention in a Messy World




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Wise Quotes

On How to Edit Your Life

“So this idea of editing a book ends when the book is done, whereas of course, with a life, our lives are open books and it’s never done until the life is over. So that principle of identifying in a life, what is this trying to be? And often with a life, I think it’s an easy way to break it down is what gives me energy, what innately feels good. And then another side of that in both books and life that we’ll probably circle back to is the question of what do I want to leave behind?…Where’s the energy on a day-to-day basis? How do we lean toward that and away from things that take it away? And what are the things that we really want to look back on and feel like we’ve given so that they can outlast us? Those questions I think are really good editing questions. So when I think about editing a life, I think about the same editing questions we’ll ask about a book, which are ultimately, what is this now? What is this trying to be? What works in its quest to try to be that and what is still needed to get it there? And I think those questions apply really nicely to lives.”


On First Choices

“…When I think of first choices, my Mom has a term that I love called painless long shots. She always encouraged all of her children to, rather than thinking about all of the backup colleges apply to the first choice, the worst they will say is no, or whatever it is. Whether it’s initiating a conversation with someone that we really want to be friends with, why not the worst that can happen as opposed to sort of scuffling around and thinking like, well, probably they don’t want to be friends with me anyway. Probably that Harvard won’t take me may be true. And so I feel that I was given a lot of encouragement early on to sort of try for the thing that feels the best. And throughout my life I found, and I’ve heard a lot of other people say different forms of this, which I find so interesting that often are first choices, whatever they are…This is the part that I think feels sort of Pollyanna-ish to say, but I feel that often the first choices are easier to obtain because they’re natural to us.”


On the Wisdom of the Seasons

“…Seasons are so wonderful, and I think that seasons remind us that nothing is permanent, which is both heartbreaking and reassuring that on one end, the thing that we’re worrying about today in this week probably won’t be something that we remember in a year or six months. And I think that’s important to keep in mind that this too shall pass. And certainly today, whatever the thing is, feels like the end or the beginning of the world, but most things are not at the end of our lives. We’ll look back and think of maybe five days when the world shifted for us, but probably it won’t be today. And probably this thing will be resolved in an okay way. And I think that the seasons also help us remember that everything has cycles and everything is reversible that a decision we make to move house or move job or step out of something, retire out of something or lean into something can always be reversed. We can always retire for a year and think, that was not for me. Or we can always take on new work for a year and think, Wow, time to scale back. And I think that if we think of things in seasons rather than I’m signing my name on the dotted line for forever, we just think, well, I’ll try this for a season. I’ll retire for a year. I’ll lean into this job for two years, I’ll give it a go. And the exception of course is having children not reversible, but most things are. And most decisions that we make in our relationships can ultimately be cleaned up, apologized for forgiven, that everything is reversible. So I think that is partly the wisdom of the seasons.”


About Retirement Wisdom

I help people who are retiring, but aren’t quite done yet, discover what’s next.

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About Your Podcast Host 

Joe Casey is an executive coach who also helps people design their next life after their primary career. He created his own next chapter after a twenty-six-year career at Merrill Lynch, where he was Senior Vice President and Head of HR for Global Markets & Investment Banking. Today, in addition to his work with clients, Joe hosts The Retirement Wisdom Podcast, which thanks to his guests and loyal listeners, ranks in the top 1 % globally in popularity by Listen Notes. Business Insider has recognized him as one of 23 innovative coaches who are making a difference. He’s the author of Win the Retirement Game: How to Outsmart the 9 Forces Trying to Steal Your Joy.