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Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion

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Book Overview

This unique and insightful book challenges our prevailing and often fallacious attitudes about schooling. In today's volatile job market, ideas are more important than training, innovation is more... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

We've been sorely duped by the education monopoly

I loved this simple, funny and easy to read critique of traditional conformist education which offered great support for chucking everything you've been conditioned to believe about what and how to learn. There is great support here for realizing and acting on humankind's ancient truth: YOU are responsible for your own life, YOU call the shots, EVERYTHING in your path becomes fodder for learning and true education. Classrooms, grades, hoop jumping, core curriculums, educational standards are all meaningless and irrelevant in the face of WHO YOU ARE, what is meaningful to YOU and what drives you. Day to day, moment to moment, the essence of who you are as a highly unique being unfolds with every thought and action taken. Why would an intelligent, creative person (and we all are) subject themselves to the stifling rigidity of someone else's definition of "education"?

Passion for Self Education

Frankly, I agree with the concerns of many who reviewed this book about the recommendation for some to leave school if they are not excelling. However, I have seen some who have who have definately succeeded in life. Yet, what James Bach had was at least a passion for learning. And, if someone has that, then, maybe there is a case for going on or beyond the school system at times. Regardless of the above, I think there are a few great take aways for managers and leaders in business, education and in general. Really, he does sink his teeth into continuous education. He of course surrounds that with his experience in his expertise, as a tester. What is cool about the book is how he weaves his strategy and philosophy of learning with his career history. Bach is constantly found here refining himself and learning at every turn to be a better practioner of what he has passion for and for learning and how all of it continues to come together to support the whole of what he learns. He has things about Alternation, where you learn, go away, come back again. Giving really good examples of that. He asks really good questions that all of us should ask ourselves or at least we can use to ask ourselves our right questions when we approach learning something new. What are we learning it for? What is our overall goal? This becomes his syllabus of sorts. He talks about things like taking yourself out of your comfort zone, focusing on variety. There are opportunities in self directed education. When you think about that, self education, is really where most are after completing formal education anyway. We have heard about learning organizations. Yet there are many in those companies who have no real concrete or ideas for adding to their knowledge. Bach's goal in improving himself continually is to help improve the world in some way. He talks about developing the ability to continually 'solve authentic problems.' p.166. Looking at other ideas in a matrix of sorts to check and verify and to continue learning. p.168. He gives a great example of his reason to study history (the Syllabus Story) where he really has genuine questions to answer, that really the study of history is actually for, not just rote dates but the reasons for what happened and relating that to our time. Fascnating questions he lists. (p. 174) One question is really key to understanding him that I feel may inspire a reason to buy. When he studied history he aske the very pertainent question where he wanted to learn: 'What mistakes does mankind keep making.' Anyone who has felt that some education has left us in the lurch would love this. If structure has caused you to get left behind but you could learn the subject somehow, you would love this book. There are so many who have learned software and computers for instance who did not have degrees as such until they developed a passion for learning. Some of my friends went from simple office workers to project manage

An Inspiring and Valuable Book, But Use with Caution

In this book, James Marcus Bach, son of Richard Bach (author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull), tells us a lot about his rather atypical life and what he's learned along the way. Skeptics might question his motives and speculate that he wants to prove or promote himself, but I appreciate his candor and willingness to share, and I'm willing to grant that his main motive is to sincerely help the reader. In reading the book, it quickly becomes evident that Bach is indeed his father's son. He dropped out of high school and never went back for formal education, but he was intelligent and motivated, so he managed to chart his own passionately self-directed course of intellectual development and built a career as a recognized expert in software testing. Here's a summary of most of the key "secrets" he offers for a "lifetime of success": a. View yourself as an evolving work in progress which you're responsible for creating (Nietzsche had the same idea). b. Education must be lifelong and customized for your needs and desires, so learn to educate yourself by scouting and using the vast array of resources at your disposal (books, the Web, peers, etc.). c. Work on "authentic problems" which engage you, rather than artificial problems which have no significance for you. d. To sustain passion for learning, go with the flow of what engages your curiosity, is fun, and fits the natural rhythms of your mind. In other words, engage in "low-pressure learning." e. When possible and helpful, let yourself procrastinate so that your creative subconscious mind can help you solve problems. f. Allocate some "disposable time" to meander and try things (or do nothing) rather than always following a rigorous schedule. g. To increase overall productivity, work on multiple projects in parallel. h. Try alternating between complementary learning activities, rather than getting stuck with just one approach. i. Learn by experimenting, contrasting ideas with each other, constructing stories, and engaging in various forms of "play." j. Tame complex problems by employing systems thinking, using models and heuristics, and building understanding and expertise step by step. k. Use your area(s) of expertise as a gateway to learn things relevant to many other areas. l. Don't worry about forgetting things. Forgetting clears up mental clutter, and you can always re-learn what you forget. m. Recognize that much learning is a side effect of what you do, so try to learn something from every situation and experience in your life, including your failures. n. Don't let institutions hold you back, and be prepared to challenge authority and the status quo when necessary. Believe in yourself, don't judge yourself too harshly, and don't be intimidated. o. Aim to succeed based on the quality of your work and the resulting reputation you build, not diplomas, degrees, and other paper credentials. p. Rather than aiming to do what's popular as a career, be willing to carve out your own

Who's smarter?

I'm James' younger brother Jon. James is a high school dropout. I have a Bachelor's Degree. Who's smarter? Who's had more opportunities? Who's more successful? Those who would ask those questions might find value in this book, because intelligence, opportunities and success are not measured by who's had more schooling, but how we approach and apply the education we build for ourselves. For example, James and I both have successful careers in software testing, but it is James who is more famous and sought-after as a speaker, writer, and consultant. He also has a much more impressive resume, having lectured to PhDs and nuclear scientists. This book is his story about the learning techniques he has discovered (and invented) in creating an education for himself without any schooling. Two years ago, he showed me an early draft of this book and asked for suggestions to help him show what he has learned about learning -- for example, how school actually *prevented* him from learning -- and how he has crafted his own education since dropping out in 1982. I hoped I could help him with his book as much as he helped me develop and thrive in my software testing career. He knew I was a journalism major and an author, but he also knew that my main skill was to ask a lot of questions (the major skill of software testing, by the way). One of my suggestions was to talk about the advice he gave to a class of borderline dropouts in 1990, encouraging them to quit if school wasn't teaching them anything to their satisfaction. He recounts the questions they immediately asked him ("How did you get Apple Computers to hire you without a degree?"), and the advice he gave them ("Don't worry about diplomas or degrees; just get so good that no one can ignore you.") He also recounts the horrified reaction of the teacher (who asked him to speak in the first place) when he said "If you're not happy, leave this place." I suggested he start with that as the first chapter because I was there with him in 1990 when he said those things and I remember how inspired I was. I was fresh out of college with my degree and I was nearly broke and homeless, sleeping on his couch. I did not want to be a reporter even though I trained for four years at the University of Maine to be one. Instead, I wanted to write a book. But there I was with James way back then, talking to these kids and finding myself agreeing with him that having a degree doesn't matter if you're not passionate about what you learn or what you do. This book is James' account of how he sailed his curiosity and passion for learning like a single-masted sloop, instead of staying aboard the large, slow, garbage scow that school was for him. You may not like what he has to say, but no matter your education, your economy, or your intelligence, there may be treasure for you in this book if you sail with James for a little while.

Agree or disagree with his views, it is a thought-provoking, great read

The writer Geoge Leonard once described lecturing as the "best way to get information from teacher's notebook to student's notebook without touching the student's mind." This sums up much of James Bach's views on traditional education and helps explain his violent reaction against it. Much better, implies James in his book (and, more importantly, backed by his actions) to learn and explore on your own and about things that interest you, and develop a passion for a wide range topics, as he has done, than suffer the Leonardian fate of thoughtless note-taking and conformist hoop-jumping to "get ahead in the world". The book is a highly entertaining romp through Jame's fascinating life from a mathematically-gifted young rebel who intentionally failed his tests and wound up dropping out of high school and living in a hotel room as a teenager (sans-parents), through his early career as a self-taught software programmer who became one of Apple's youngest managers, to his current career as an internationally-recognized expert on software testing. James seems to enjoys being intentionally provocative and he is good at doing it in a thoughtful, insightful way. He shares his views on how he has learned and how he has made his personal learning style work for him throughout his life in an engaging and enjoyable style. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, regardless of their views on traditional education or whether they have an IT background. If you read it, I predict you'll find it entertaining and that reading it will cause you to think about education and "life-long learning" differently. - Justin Hunter Founder and CEO Hexawise
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