Nick Ortner, author of the wildly successful The Tapping Solution, recently wrote about encountering a powerful bit of advice. The words that got his attention were “who you spend time with…is who you become.”

He says, “I first heard this quote and concept over 15 years ago at a Tony Robbins weekend event. I was there by myself, having seen an advertisement for it while walking the streets of New York where I lived, and knowing I needed to do something different with my life.”

Of course, if you look at his life today as a bestselling author and sought after expert, it’s obvious that he took that advice to heart and found ways to spend time with people who had a positive influence on him.

Tony Robbins isn’t the only one to encourage positive connections. Centuries earlier, the Persian poet Rumi  urged, “Be with those who help your being.”

It’s wonderful, of course, if our lives are filled with friends and allies who serve that purpose. Most of us begin the journey of personal discovery in a different way.

We go looking for a teacher. We may do so without letting our current friends or family members know that such an exploration has begun.

Even more accessible than live events such as the one Ortner mentions, are books.

Although self-help is a huge industry today, not everyone gets the great results that he has. This is somewhat perplexing considering how easy it is to create our own program.

When I first discovered the literature of personal growth and development, there were few titles to choose from.

Today there are thousands.

I always have a self-help book or two in my current reading pile because there’s so much to learn.

However, the self-help movement has spawned plenty of dropouts. Why don’t all readers find this genre helpful? Here are a few thoughts on that.

° Refuse to abandon skepticism. Hanging on to cherished beliefs is a guaranteed way to prevent growth. “I tried that positive thinking stuff once,” they scoff. “Didn’t work.”

° Expecting instant results. Big mistake.

Simply reading a single book is not going to produce visible change. It’s more a process of chipping away at limiting thoughts and behaviors that have taken hold over years.

° Exercises are too much trouble. Most of us think of reading as zooming from the beginning to the end of a book.

Self-help books invite us to slow down and take a slower journey. Exercises are like rest stops along the way, causing us to pause, reflect and apply.

° Right book at the wrong time. Personal growth is an evolutionary process and we expand our receptiveness one concept at a time.

Sometimes a book arrive ahead of our readiness. When that happens, don’t abandon self-help. Try a different book.

I recall my first encounter with Napoleon Hill’s classic, Think and Grow Rich. It could have been written in Swahili for all the sense it made to me. When I revisited it a year later, I was ready to start learning the lessons.

° Miss the point. A woman I know who never quite gets her business running, often dismisses advice and suggestions by saying, “I’ve heard that before.”

Hearing is only part of the process. As Henry David Thoreau said, “A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hints. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.”