I don't share their enthusiasm - why is self-teaching so amazing? Am I really that cool for doing the simplest thing ever - teaching myself. Or are the other people I'm being judged against too fucking retarded to teach themselves?
So, I have a pretty sweet job, working with very, very talented people to solve meaningful/challenging software problems.
Sometimes I get to go recruiting for interns on college campuses. Every kid hands me the same resume. They've taken the same classes and maybe have a tiny bit of "professional experience" (eg nothing akin to a substantial contribution to a large scale, commercial software project). That's not surprising; they're in the same school, following the same curriculum.
The first thing I ask a potential recruit? "What types of programming or techy/geeky things do you do in your free time?" It doesn't matter if what you do is even remotely related to our sub-field (although, of course, it helps). The fact that you're one of the 5% or less that are genuinely interested enough to experiment on your own sets you apart.
And that's not just some random question to separate out a random group of people. When it comes time to work on some serious coding/software architecture tasks full time, you'd better really enjoy it or your life and the work you produce is going to suck.