I have tried several times to “go it on my own” – but with limited success. I am a casual SPSS user and have some SAS experience.
Would appreciate a pointer or two from someone who has similar background and now uses R.
I think the only way to get into it is the next time you you need to do something in SAS or SPSS fire up R instead. It is tough at the beginning and at first you will spend a lot of time on simple tasks. When you get stuck google the problem and you will probably find a solution. You can check your results with SPSS or SAS.
Eventually you start to get the hang of it and jobs start going quicker. Referencing old code always helps. Hopefully you find some sense of pride in the progress you make.
Then as you become more advanced and read blogs plus this site you start to learn the true power of R, the tricks, and what all is possible with it.