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Lewis Smith, Entrepreneur & Developer of BodyTracker, Shares the Books that Shifted His Attitude

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Lewis Smith is an entrepreneur and location independent app developer.

He started programming around the age of 10, when his dad brought home a computer from the school he was teaching at, and he’s been coding ever since. He worked for a consultancy where he did projects for big companies, such as Barclays, Electrolux, Marks & Spencer, and BAE Systems (a military defense supplier in the UK).

Lewis is the creator of Body Tracker (formerly known as Progress), a body measurement tracking app that he designed for himself. Inspired by Tim Ferriss‘s four-hour body diet, he wanted to track his progress in the run up to his wedding. It helps people track weight loss, but goes beyond the normal metrics (such as weight and BMI). The app has been featured by Apple and it’s downloaded around 2,000 times every month.

In 2012, Lewis went in Thailand with Jen, his wife, for their honeymoon. When they got back home to England, they wanted to change how they live. Within six months, they sold everything they had and rented their house, bought round the world tickets and traveled for two years.

Lewis has been writing on his blog about the things the learned while trying to increase the revenue from the apps he built. Thanks to the apps he created, he is able to make a living online – although he occasionally also takes freelancing clients.

In this interview, we challenged Lewis to share some of the coding books he recommends and, while he told us coding isn’t really taught in books, he gave us an awesome list of recommended reads for everyone who wants to tackle with software development. Enjoy!

Estimated reading time for this interview is 8 minutes. If you'd rather listen to it, you can do it on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher.

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

His Dark Materials Series by Philip Pullman is my favourite fictional book of all time. I just love this story so much, it’s clever and thought provoking, whilst also being accessible and gripping to read. The audiobook version is fantastic too, and narrated by Pullman himself. It’s also inspiring because the main characters are just children, but they are so strong and determined. There is always something new to take from it. I love that Lyra is quite a popular girls name now.

For business it’s harder to pick a clear winner, but I’ve read “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie quite a few times. It is very rare for a business book that it is packed with invaluable advice, to be so easy and enjoyable to read. The fact that the tone and style is quite dated just adds to the fun in reading it and proves how valuable it still is. I recently recommended this book to my brother who has never read a business book before, and he said it totally changed how approaches dealing with everyone.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

Getting Things Done” by David Allen really changed my whole attitude to managing myself and all the stuff I have going on. It’s not the best written book, but the concepts in it were revolutionary to me and meant I went from feeling stressed all the time about work, to much calmer with much less stuff in my head.

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What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

The Four Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss inspired us to quit our jobs, travel the world and start our own businesses. I haven’t re-read since, and I don’t think much of the practical advice has aged well. But in terms of opening your mind to ideas, it is world class.

Secrets of the Millionaire Mind” by T Harv Eker has also had a radical impact on me in recent years and on my attitude towards money. I find it almost embarrassing to recommend because the ideas are very radical and “woo woo”, but if you stick with it, it can change your perspective totally.

What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

This is pretty tricky because I didn’t learn to code from a book and my favourite coding books aren’t in print any more.

But these books are very relevant for people wanting to work making software either for yourself or for other people:

  • Bad Ass by Kathy Sierra – How to make amazing products. Super fun to read too.
  • Code Craft by Pete Goodliffe – This book is the fastest way to go from junior dev to senior dev.
  • Shoe Dog by Phil Knight – Not a programming book, but inspiring if you are starting your own thing.
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – Also not a programming book, but inspiring if you are starting your own thing.
  • Elon Musk by Vance & Sanders – Also not a programming book, but inspiring if you are starting your own thing.

Plus I wish I’d read all the books I’ve mentioned in other questions ten years earlier than I did!

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

In “Managing Oneself” Peter Drucker talks about how different people have different ways of receiving information. I realised that hearing is much more effective for me than reading and so since then I only really listen to audio books. Incidentally, that book is 100% free on audible and is shorter than most podcasts. Well worth your time.

How do you make time for reading?

I aim to take a walk most mornings and I listen to books then. Also if I’m travelling or cooking and sometimes when I’m jogging. I find it easier to make time for audiobooks than “normal” books which is another part of their appeal.

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

No but I wish I did! Feel free to be in touch if you have good solutions for this!

How do you choose what books to read next?

I keep wish list in Audible based on recommendations from friends and the internet.

What book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

I’m listening to Emotional Success by David DeSteno. I’m hoping to use some of the ideas to help customers of my weight loss app stick to their targets and lose more weight.

In the IndieHackers interview you mentioned a few self-imposed deadlines that made a big difference to you. What other productivity principles do you use?

Getting Things Done has lots of good advice on this front. Another self imposed thing is setting big targets over small ones. I find if I think: “How do I make $1k per day?” I am approaching things very differently to “How do I make “$1k per month?” It just opens the mind. Even if I don’t hit $1k/day, I make more faster than if I think the other way.

Both you and Jen, your wife, have location independent businesses. What are your biggest challenges in working remotely?

Now that I am full time working on apps, I am not really working remotely. My customers are all over the world and don’t expect real time communication with me. In fact many are really happy that I reply at all.

That said, timezones are always a challenge when you are living in a different country to your friends, family and mastermind buddies. That inspired me to make my [World Time Widget App] which really helps me feel connected to people around the globe.

Links where you can follow Lewis Smith or find out more about his projects:

All books mentioned by Lewis Smith in this interview:

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