One of my favorite books about self-education and lifelong learning is James Marcus Bach’s Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar (2009). Bach is a high school dropout who taught himself computer programming, got in early at Apple Computer, and has become a leading software testing expert. His book is all about the philosophy and practice of being a self-directed, independent learner.
Who is a Buccaneer-Scholar?
Buccaneer-scholar is Bach’s term for “anyone whose love of learning is not muzzled, yoked, or shackled by any institution or authority; whose mind is driven to wander and find its own voice and place in the world.”
I love it; the term resonates with me. The idea of a buccaneer-scholar encourages each of us to find our niche in the world, by learning and gathering resources that allow us to make a difference in our own ways.
In addition, if you’ve ever been in an organization that muzzles, yokes, and shackles its denizens, you know how much we could use more Buccaneer-Scholars in our workplaces!
According to Bach, one of the core practices for a buccaneer-scholar is that of scouting relentlessly “for resources you need to improve your education.” This includes “browsing in bookstores and libraries,” “wandering through an office supply store or a hobby shop,” and even surfing the Internet and watching television.
Bach says that the net result of his obsessive scouting is “to have deep resources when I need to learn important stuff fast.”
When I first read the book, I was delighted to realize that I have been scouting actively for most of my career, only I didn’t know what to call it! (The less flattering characterization is “pack rat.”) Some who have read my scholarly articles have told me that I’m pretty good at pulling together seemingly disparate ideas and sources, and I credit this practice for enriching my work in that way.
Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar can be ordered from major online booksellers, where you will find new and very affordable used copies. In addition, Bach maintains a website, The Voyage of a Buccaneer-Scholar, which can be accessed here.