optimal, lasting success, you need a combination of learning, resources and support.

Not long ago I owned over a thousand different books ranging from organizational leadership, coaching, and marketing to my favorite self-development genres. I had an entire room devoted to my library. I was addicted to buying a new book anytime I wanted to figure something out.

When I’d get stuck, I’d pull a few books off the shelf. And with a cup of tea in hand, I’d curl up on my sofa and dig into the words of wisdom contained within the pages. I’d read for a few hours and somehow find myself frustrated.

The reading brought up questions and I found myself wanting to discuss what I was learning. The concepts were applicable to my life, but I needed to process the information with someone – another human perspective beyond my own. So I’d buy more books, trying to get to the answers that already lived within me.

A vicious cycle (and a thousand books) later, I had an “a-ha” moment. The result of this epiphany was that I took almost my entire collection to the famous Powell’s Bookstore here in Portland, Oregon. Yep, all but 24 of my most precious resources found their way into new homes.

Here’s what I discovered that prompted this change.

1. Books only offer a one-way relationship. They talk to you, not with you.

My books were keeping me company (and alone) filling my beautiful brain with more and more information. In many ways, they were easy companions. They didn’t talk back. When I was finished with one, I’d put it back on the shelf.

But books alone can’t get you through life at an optimal level. It’s the difference between reading about something and experiencing it firsthand. In only reading about the experiences of others, I was held back from feeling the way I truly wanted: alive – not to mention the value of human interaction.

2. Books are no replacement for a human mentor or coach.

You’ve likely heard the term “Shelf Help.” But you can only go so far with a book. To travel far and grow as an individual you need to interact with others. As an introvert and someone who can be a bit conflict-avoidant, that can be a challenge (at least it was for me). But it eventually became obvious that, with the right teachers, mentors and community, I could travel farther, faster and have a lot more fun in the process. More importantly, this level of support enabled me to step into the life and relationships I really wanted.

3. Books can’t predict when and what kind of help you’ll need.

I learned a lot from books. But even the well-written ones couldn’t prepare me for the unpredictable situations and circumstances life would present. On occasion, the book’s formula for success would work and I’d be able to approach a life situation from a different perspective, sporadically producing better results. But if something went wrong, I was ill-prepared to respond.

I needed more than a cookie cutter formula, process or philosophy to get me where I wanted to go. I needed someone to show me the way and help me adapt and customize my approach. This on-demand guidance allowed me to quickly become highly effective, no matter what life presented me.

4. Books are useless for combating self-doubt and fear.

Unless someone figures out how to do this in the virtual world, a book’s words can’t leap off the page and give you a big compassionate hug. Words won’t help you work through your challenges when you’re all charged up. In these instances, nothing beats the judgment-free insight and support of a coach – someone who can ask questions, reflect information and hold a courageous space for you while you process through your doubt and fear.

Sure, a few of your friends may qualify for that job (and may be really good at it). But after awhile, they can grow tired of being there – especially when they need the support and wisdom of another objective point-of-view as badly as you do.

I’d like to emphasize that books serve a great purpose and I will never stop buying them. But books alone won’t give you the support and guidance you really need in life to be happy, healthy and fulfilled. For that, you need a mentor.

In truth, it’s really a combination of both – books and mentors – that enables you to go to the depth and distance necessary to create and live your ideal life, career or business.

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