My first thought when Ash Barty suddenly retired wasn’t—as seemed to be the burning question—what’s next for this rockstar 25 year old. It was ‘huzzah, there is a serious professional who understands it’s all in the planning’.

The world No 1’s planning was exceptional. She knew when to go and did it on her terms. No being last on the dance floor at the end of the party, shoes in hand and six drinks in. She strategized her exit with as much care as her matches, treating it as a business and not a game.

I often see that normally realistic CEOs and leaders find it hard to let go when it’s their time because they haven’t planned. They procrastinate, they sabotage  succession plans, performance dives until things slowly fizzle out.

Not Ash. She proved her planning is as world class as her backhand. Everyone should be following her lead. Whether it’s an exit, a change in direction or boosting what you already do well, if you want to level up in life and business you need a plan and you need to assemble the right support team around you.

When you want to change something, you need to change your behaviour and have the people and resources to do that within arm’s reach.

I’m used to doing it in business but I’ve learned it in a new way since agreeing to hike the Larapinta Trail, the casual walker’s equivalent of the Hawaiian Ironman. I knew planning and the right team would be the difference between nailing it or failing it.

First order of business was my fitness. I had to really step up my fitness regimen quickly for the demands of hiking 107kms in six days with steep rocky ridges and inclines. 

So I signed up for Hustle & Thrive’s six week challenge, staggered around a local oval at early morning run club and showed up for circuits and strength training to discover my elusive glutes.

My trek partner Kate became my training buddy on fortnightly hikes in the You Yangs. Collaborating on our fitness meant we know we’re training enough and also gives us a chance to endlessly share our excitement and not bore anyone. The kids only let me mention Larapinta once a day.

I scheduled a weekly tennis hit with three girlfriends and a coach. It serves a dual purpose: increasing fitness and keeping me motivated because it’s fun learning a new sport.

My planning also stretched to injury prevention. I didn’t want to do all this training and have an injury or hurt myself during the trek so I’ve looked at reducing my risk and am educating myself about ways to avoid injuries.

Advice from other trekkers is I need to look after my feet so I’ve booked into the podiatrist next month to get tips and learn about blister care.

Kate and I also consulted Scott Brown, a remote and rural first aid specialist, about what we need to be prepared for. Wow. This was such an informative and eye-opening hour session. We learned about ‘waste management’ on the trip—there are no toilets, not even long drops!—and how to minimise being smelly when you don’t shower for nearly a week.

We also learned how to deal with flies. I can’t wait to show you my really cool coverall hat.

One major plank of my planning has been mindset and mentoring. If I’m going to level up and actually finish this thing, I need to challenge old thought patterns. Calling in experts was worth the investment because I know the work I do on myself will flow into my biz too.

First up: a therapist. There’s been a lot going on my personal life in the past year and right now I need a bit more emotional support. It’s helping me manage my biz, personal life and prioritising my training.

I also hired a business coach. Why would I need one for the Larapinta? I’m a big believer that if we up level in our personal life this will flow into our business. I’m seizing this great opportunity to make work changes as I change my personal habits.

And of course there’s my trek buddy Kate, aka my Wing Woman. She’ll keep me focused on the trek and I’ll do the same. Our shared big fear is being forced to do a day in the support car because we’re struggling and it’s impacting other trekkers. Our commitment is we’ll step in, support each other and act as accountability buddies when our mind wanders and it all feels too hard.

As the trip comes closer, there’ll be more things to plan. I’m ready for that. It’s made me realise more than ever that if you want to make a change in your business or life you need to change your current behaviour.

What are you planning? Whatever it is, you need the right people around you. You need to work with those who have up levelled. You need me as your wing woman!

I promise not to talk Larapinta too much … just use what I’ve learned to motivate you to greater heights and challenges.