Lawrence Neal is quickly positioning himself as one of the leading podcast hosts on the topic of health and fitness. On his podcast, Corporate Warrior, Lawrence has interviewed some of the biggest names in health and fitness. His desire to understand how we can achieve peak performance at a molecular level is inspiring and is allowing him to build a community of like minded fitness fanatics. I am proud to say that Lawrence Neal is a good friend of mine, and as a result this was one of my longest interviews to date. I actually had to condense it so that it wouldn’t turn into a dissertation! If you have any interest in podcasting, lifestyle businesses, or health and fitness – Lawrence has some great reading insights in this interview. He reveals the books that have changed his life and influenced his career. Please enjoy, my interview with Lawrence Neal…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – how do you respond?
I have a crap answer which is that I’m in I.T sales, which is where the majority of my income comes from. But, when people get to know me, I make a point of saying that that is my day job, but I also run a podcast called The Corporate Warrior, where I interview experts in health and fitness. I guess I elaborate from there, dependent on the level of interest.
At the moment I am reading The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. I started reading it as I have recently re-assessed my goals, and I wanted to have another crack at Tim Ferriss’ dream-lining approach from The Four Hour Work Week. One of the bits of advice that he gives that I really like is that if you don’t make your goals exciting – it won’t motivate you. Whereas if you make them amazing, then you’ll be pulled towards them. So I’ve picked very grand goals so that I am motivated. I believe he got that inspiration from The Magic of Thinking Big, so that lead to me reading it.
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
I wasn’t a big reader when I was very young. The first books I got into were fiction, particularly heroic fantasies. Authors like David Eddings and David Gemmel. One of the books that I thought about before this interview was Sword in the Storm by David Gemmell – it’s the only fiction book I’ve read in two days. I couldn’t put it down. David’s formula for his books are always very similar, but it doesn’t make them any less entertaining. Typically, there will be one character who is destined to save the world, but he or she will be ‘double hard’ and will become super powerful and kill all the bad guys. I always found it so inspiring to read.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
That changed a lot. When I was really young, I wanted to be a fighter pilot – who doesn’t?! Then I realised that you have to be really smart to do that, and I also had a fear of roller-coasters when I was young – so I figured I may not be suited to flying planes. I remember being on holiday in Greece with my Mum and my Step-Dad, and being obsessed with income and salaries. I remember sitting on a tour bus, asking them, “What does a lawyer earn? What does a doctor earn?”. I think we’re all money motivated to a degree, but I think at that age I was certainly interested in wealth. It wasn’t until University that I discovered a path and realised I wanted to get into business, marketing and sales.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
I think he would think I am a nutcase probably. That’s a really hard question as I can’t really know how I would have interpreted meeting someone like me back then. I’d like to think that I’d be very inspired by the work I’m doing with the podcast and blog. Perhaps it would have inspired me to have more self belief in myself.
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?
It would either be The Spartan Health Regime by Anthony Bova, a nutrition and exercise book inspired by Western A. Price who was a scientist who travelled around the world examining the diets of different cultures. The other side of it is inspired by Greek Spartan lifestyle and training. The author used that to create a diet and exercise plan, which I have since changed my views on as I’ve now read and learned more. However, the book was the catalyst for my health and fitness journey. I used to work for a Headhunters firm, a little boutique firm owned by a man called David Pike. He was a very successful serial entrepreneur, who at the age of 74 he was still running the business and full of enthusiasm. He looked incredibly healthy and fit for his age, I found him so inspiring. Every morning before we’d start our working day he would do a motivational fire up session, where we’d read a page or two from an inspirational book. While we’re doing that, he is just sitting in his chair and lifting his entire body-weight, up on the arms of the chair. You don’t often see that strength and mobility in someone of that age. So I couldn’t help myself, I asked, “come on David, what’s your secret?”. A few days later, he strolled past my desk and slammed down a book on my desk and it was The Spartan Health Regimen, and said “read this”. Obviously, I devoured it shortly after.
The second book I’d pick would be The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, because that book changed the way I looked at business and productivity. It would have informed my decisions earlier on in life, and I feel that if I had had that book sooner, it would have effected where I am now. That book was a game changer.
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
I have an hour commute morning and evening, and that is when I get most of my reading done. But I often use that time to catch up on podcasts, news and articles.
I would have to say The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, as when I first got into marketing and sales after University, I knew that I wanted to run my own business at some point. During that path, I got exposed to property investment, and ended up going along to this seminar. It was run by this super successful property investor, who owned 20-30 houses, had achieved financial freedom and only worked three days a week. It was so inspiring, I went to the back of the room and spent £800 on a property investment course. I learned a lot on that course. But, it was only after that that I got sent a copy of The Four Hour Work Week by a family friend who just happened to be a property millionaire. I loved the book, straight away, I just thought it was fucking amazing. It just vibed with me on every level. It made me realise that property to me, is really boring. The idea of building a business that was in line with my own passions just felt so right to me. The book was definitely a catalyst for my podcast. The other books that have impacted my career are Body By Science by Doug McGuff and Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play by Mahan Khalsa. The first one was arguably the catalyst for my podcast as I had a desire to interview Doug McGuff, which then organically turned into my podcast. The second book is more important to my sales career, and that book helped me overcome my selling fears.
Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?
I definitely associate Be Your Own Life Coach by Fiona Harrold with my best friend, Stuart Ralph. When I think of anything science fiction, I always think of my Dad.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
The books I’ve recommend the most are probably Body By Science by Doug McGuff, for people who are interested in health and fitness. There’s a whole lot of science in there, so it doesn’t always appeal to everyone, but it is a very, very good book. The other book I’ve recommend the most is definitely The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, which is the one I always recommend when someone tells me they want to get into business.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
Non-fiction. It has contributed more to my life. I enjoy fiction, but if it wasn’t for the non-fiction books I’ve read, I don’t know if I’d be where I am now.
Do you think reading is important?
I think reading is very important, for learning and for enjoying life. A big part of life is learning and improving yourself, and learning about your world. With the exception of travelling and experiencing the world, I feel books are the next best way of delivering that experience.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
I would say The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida. I’m not always the best boyfriend, and I can make mistakes, and I had neglected improving myself in that regard. The book has been a godsend in that department. It’s a little bit abstract, and sometimes it’s not directly applicable. But that book has really helped my relationship. Although another book would be Surely You Must Be Joking Mr. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman. That is an incredible book. For those who don’t know, Richard Feynman is a physicist/polymath who is behind the Manhattan project, but also a safe cracker and a bongo player. A very fascinating guy.
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
I’m going to have to say real books. I do have a Kindle, and it’s brilliant, convenient and makes sense logistically, but there’s something visceral about the experience of flicking pages in a book. I’d say a book has more ‘stickability’ than a digital book.
Name a book that you feel every human should have to read by law.
These are the hardest questions ever! I really love On the Shortness of Life by Seneca, and I think from the perspective of a book that would have the most positive impact on mankind – that one is perfect.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I really want to read all of the stuff by Naseem Taleb. But also want to check out Made in America by Sam Walton, as it’s supposed to be one of the best business books.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
I want to think of something that consolidates the following message – you’re future is not predestined and you have control over what you can achieve if you believe in yourself. But I can’t think of a title that I approve of that would capture that message. I’m sure you’ll talk to far more intelligent and witty people who will have a far better answer to that question.