Learning as a free spirit

Yesterday, I finished reading Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: How Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime of Success. I've enjoyed a variety of experiences from the messages of James Marcus Bach and then reflecting on how they relate to my own experiences.

Like Bach, I sometimes experience my self-motivation to explore unknown territory as an playful puppy dog and other times as a charging rhinoceros. When I'm on a roll, the process of coming to realizations, making connections and forming new questions leads to more of the same. Successful learning begets more productive learning. My tentative explorations become intense pursuits which uncover many sources of seemingly relevant information to dive into deeply.

I also have experienced befuddlement when my intrinsic motivation suddenly vanishes. Like Bach, I've developed heuristics to rekindle my motivation or change directions in order to better align with my motivations. His imagery of a becalmed pirate ship that finds the wind to fill its sails -- fits my experience.

I looked at Bach's story through my familiar lens of relational grammars. Rather than making a clean break from counter-dependence to become independent, both threads continue interwoven through his life. That insight provoked me to abandon my categorical reasoning and see the difference between the two developmental phases as a paradox instead.

I was fascinated by Bach's sixth grade experience of being profoundly respected by his teacher, followed by the shocking contempt and indifference toward students that disoriented him in seventh grade. While it clearly justifies dropping out of getting schooled, it also defines a challenge of recovering from the abuse and the excessive structure of coercive eductions.

I got to wondering if all the difficulties we experience when we're free to learn as we please, comes from preliminary experiences with too much structure. Bach learned very early to self-structure. He eventually recognized patterns in what worked for him as he routinely faced too many options for further learning. His array of "metacognitive strategies" is impressive and exemplary for anyone needing examples to imitate.

I found his personal story to be the most rewarding facet of his book. The ways he abstracted his experiences into a consistent framework was not nearly as useful to mel as the lessons learned from his life experiences. His story is both logical and emotional. It provides things to think about and to feel. It invites readers to be rational and irrational.

Bach mentioned many occasions where his writing this book came to a halt and proved very difficult to write. His 10,000 hours of deliberate practice involved computer programming and software testing, not writing. I found the non-narrative portions of his book as uninviting to read as any software manual. However, he reveals where he's coming from transparently and earned my trust far more than books which seem pompous and boring.

While he made no mention of this, I see his life journey as serendipitous. He repeatedly happened to be in the right place, happened to have something with him at the time, or happened to meet someone. I've had many serendipitous experiences myself. Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar suggests that learning as free spirit will bring fortuitous occasions about naturally.

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