Reflecting on the 2022 Guild of the Rose Workshops
The Guild of the Rose is a community of learners dedicated to personal growth and development, often with a rationalist bent. In 2022, the Guild offered a variety of workshops to help its members hone their skills and become more knowledgeable in a variety of areas. These workshops are administered in a flipped-classroom model, where instructional materials are reviewed before class, and activities and discussions are held in the online course session.
Each workshop consists of one weekly session, with Guild members having the choice of three time slots. These workshops may be repeated in the future, depending on demand. The workshops were highly successful in 2022 and we plan to continue the program.
The workshops can be broken down into three distinct focus areas:
Personal Growth and Development: These workshops focus on helping participants hone their skills and become more knowledgeable in a variety of areas, such as cultivating advanced epistemics, creating an exobrain, and ongoing self-improvement check-ins.
Decision-Making: These workshops focus on helping participants make better decisions in uncertain situations, such as through the use of Bayes’ Theorem, forecasting, decision trees, understanding risk, and Fermi estimates.
Communication: These workshops help develop the skill of effectively communicating with people from different backgrounds and with different beliefs, as well as giving effective compliments, teaching others, and skillfully using one’s speaking voice.
Personal Growth and Development
This workshop focuses on training participants to avoid errors in their thoughts and arguments stemming from imprecise use of words and categories. The pre-meeting assignment involves picking an error from the list given in Yudkowsky’s 37 Ways Words Can Be Wrong, reading about it, and creating a Trigger-Action Plan (TAP) to help avoid it. During the cohort activity, participants share their TAPs and discuss the associated error, and then try to rewrite the error using the Up-Goer Five Text Editor. The goal of the workshop is to help participants become more aware of common errors and develop strategies for avoiding them.
Acing the Intellectual Turing Test
The workshop trains participants to develop the skill of effectively communicating with people from different backgrounds and with different beliefs. The cohort activity involves constructing arguments for controversial topics using the language of the group that typically opposes that position, critiquing the arguments, reversing the positions and repeating the process, and then coming up with a test for the topic that would be acceptable to both groups. The goal of the workshop is to help participants learn how to effectively communicate with people from different backgrounds and with different beliefs.
Creating an Exobrain
Participants improve their personal knowledge management system. The workshop covers the importance of identifying and reducing inputs, setting up a calendar, note-taking tool, and task manager, and streamlining an existing system if applicable. The goal of the workshop is to help participants create an effective system for storing and organizing information, freeing up mental energy and time for more important tasks.
A primer on basic skills and tools needed for emergency and disaster survival. The instructional material includes an article on disasters and emergencies and a pre-meeting assignment with three parts: identifying your top scenarios, practicing an emergency technique, and starting an emergency bag. The cohort activity involves sharing one thing that wasn’t considered in disaster scenarios and brainstorming first steps or techniques to handle a difficult scenario.
Felt Sense Introspection (Focusing)
In this workshop we practice Felt Sense Introspection, also known as “Focusing,” a technique for understanding, articulating, and sometimes resolving our own feelings. We explore the theoretical basis for the technique and practice applying it on neutral targets, such as our favorite books or films. In the cohort activity, we share and discuss any difficulties or challenges participants might experience during the exercise, and provide insight to help each other resolve them.
Level Up Session (Recurring)
The recurring monthly Level Up Session workshop is focused on self-improvement and using the Guild of the Rose Character Sheet tool as a framework for making progress on personal goals. The workshop includes instructional material on how to use the Character Sheet and an agenda for the cohort activity, which involves creating or reviewing a Character Sheet, identifying and prioritizing personal goals, and working to resolve any obstacles or “bugs” that may be hindering progress. The goal of the workshop is to help participants make progress on their personal goals and improve their skills in self-assessment and problem-solving.
In this workshop, participants learn the basics of wealth accumulation and the wealth mindset. The pre-meeting assignment includes three exercises to help individuals understand their current cash and wealth flows, and set goals for decreasing consumption and increasing investments. During the cohort activity, participants share their current situation and goals with the group and receive feedback and suggestions for next steps. The workshop also covers skills and activities that can help individuals accumulate wealth.
In this workshop, participants learn about the concept of Murphyjitsu, a tool for effectively planning and anticipating potential failures in a plan. Through group activities and discussions, participants practice using Murphyjitsu to identify and address potential failure modes in a given scenario. This workshop helps participants improve their ability to make effective and realistic plans for any situation.
Participants learn about the importance of nutrition and how it can impact their mood. The class reviews instructional material on healthy eating. Participants are instructed to track their calorie consumption for 7 days, then share their results with their cohort and set goals for improving their nutrition. Optional activities include meal prepping for a week and brainstorming ways the Guild can support each other with nutrition.
Taste and Shaping
The Taste and Shaping workshop is focused on helping individuals align their actions with their goals and values. The instructional material discusses the concept of “yuck” experiences, which are negative emotions that arise when different parts of an individual are not in alignment. The workshop includes an exercise to help individuals identify their “yuck” factors and the source of those negative emotions. The workshop also covers the concept of shaping, which is the use of positive reinforcement to motivate behavior. The workshop includes an exercise to help individuals connect their actions to their goals in order to increase motivation and improve alignment.
The Trigger-Action Planning workshop is focused on helping individuals create new habits one atomic part at a time. The instructional material covers the concept of trigger-action plans, which are a way to create a new habit by linking a trigger with an action. The workshop includes exercises to help individuals identify a problem, find a trigger and action, and practice the trigger-action plan. The cohort activity involves identifying an annoyance and creating a trigger-action plan to address it. Additionally, the workshop covers the Sapience Spell, which is an exercise to help individuals reflect on their current behavior and decide if they endorse it.
In this workshop, participants learn about the Resolve Cycles technique, a five-minute high-intensity action used to solve problems in their lives. The workshop involves identifying a problem in the participants’ lives, using a cohort chat to generate potential solutions, and implementing the three-step Resolve Cycle technique to attempt to solve the problem. The goal of the workshop is to help participants overcome akrasia, procrastination, and planning confusion by using the Resolve Cycles technique.
Practical Decision-Making I
The recurring monthly Decision Theory workshop is an introduction to decision-making, with a focus on understanding the intersection of epistemic and instrumental rationality. Participants will solve a decision problem example and discuss the outcomes and utilities involved. They will also learn to perform a Value of Information calculation.
Practical Decision-Making II
The second workshop in a series on decision-making focuses on practicing the steps to building a decision tree. Participants will review the steps and practice applying them to real-life scenarios, such as choosing a location for a party and deciding what to cook for a group of friends. Finally, participants practice breaking down their problems into options and critical variables.
Practical Decision-Making III
In the third recurring Decision Theory workshop, we focus on Bayes’ Theorem and how it can be used to make better decisions in uncertain situations. The workshop begins with a review of Bayes’ Theorem and then moves on to exercises that help participants internalize how the theorem works. This includes a problem involving a bag of coins with different probabilities of landing on heads or tails. The workshop then moves on to a Bayes problem in the participants’ own lives, where they apply the theorem to a real-world situation in order to make a more informed decision. The goal of the workshop is to help participants understand and apply Bayes’ Theorem in their decision-making processes.
Chaos, Risk, and Antifragility
The “Chaos, Risk, and Antifragility” workshop focuses on understanding and dealing with uncertainty. The pre-meeting assignment involves finding examples of systems or situations and deciding whether they are fragile, robust, or antifragile. During the cohort activity, participants describe their conclusions and brainstorm ways to make themselves antifragile. The goal of the workshop is to help participants understand how to deal with chaos and uncertainty in their lives and become more antifragile.
Decision Theory I
We learned about the concept of utility in decision-making, and how it can be used to evaluate and compare different outcomes. We also learned how to map our own utility with respect to money, and how to use decision trees to solve practical problems. We worked through a scenario in which a space mission goes awry, and used decision trees to evaluate the best course of action. Optional exercises included calculating one’s own utility curve for money and making decisions based on that curve.
Forecasting is the process of making predictions about future events. In this workshop, participants practice breaking predictions down into their possible outcomes, and how to construct probability trees to help us solve complex problems. Students also learn about the best practices for making predictions under uncertainty. As part of the pre-meeting assignment, we participants make daily Metaculus predictions, and make a Fermi estimate of the weight of the heaviest recorded crocodile. The cohort then discusses their estimates and approaches to the Fermi estimate.
Molochian Systems is a workshop that explores problems with systems and institutions that cannot be attributed to any particular person or mistake. These problems, referred to as Molochian, are caused by breakdowns at a systems-level. The workshop uses both Scott Alexander’s Meditations on Moloch and Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Inadequate Equilibria as references, and covers three broad categories of Molochian outcomes: situations where the decision lies with people who would gain little or lose out personally from helping someone else, cases where decision-makers can’t reliably learn the information they need to make decisions, and systems that are broken in multiple places so that no one actor can make them better. The cohort activity involves identifying Molochian traps in daily life, categorizing them, identifying fixes, and discussing examples of systems avoiding Molochian traps.
Giving Effective Compliments
In this workshop, participants learn how to use Nonviolent Communication to effectively express gratitude and give compliments. The framework of Nonviolent Communication includes four components: observations, feelings, needs, and requests. Participants learn to use these components to craft compliments that are specific and impactful, and that express the underlying needs of both parties in the conversation. The cohort activity involves practicing giving compliments or expressing gratitude to other members of the cohort. Optional materials for further study on Nonviolent Communication are also provided.
How to Be Fun at Parties
The goal of this workshop is to help people learn how to have fun at parties and make connections with others. The instructional material provides tips on how to put the “art” in party, how to go to a party alone, how to be the life of any party, and how to approach strangers at a party. The pre-meeting assignment asks participants to choose a word that describes how they want to be remembered, and to think about examples in their own lives when someone made things awkward at a party. The cohort activity involves sharing the chosen words and brainstorming role models who personify those words, as well as discussing decision-making heuristics that can help people have fun at parties.
How to Teach Anyone Anything
In this workshop, participants learn how to quickly put together an effective Guild of the Rose workshop. The instructional materials include an article on the history and practice of Guild workshops. The pre-meeting assignment involves brainstorming an idea for a single-session workshop and creating a landing page based on the provided template. During the cohort activity, participants share their workshop landing pages with the cohort and receive feedback. The cohort also discusses the “How to Teach Things Well” article and comes up with a list of workshop ideas.
Practical Social Networking
Participants learn about the value of friendships and the different phases of friendship development. They map out their own social networks and identify any bottlenecks or challenges they face in building and maintaining friendships. The cohort then discusses and offers support and suggestions to help each other overcome these challenges and improve their social networks. By the end of the workshop, participants should have a better understanding of their social network and potential strategies for building and strengthening their friendships.
The Street Epistemology workshop teaches a set of techniques for understanding other people’s beliefs and having productive conversations about sensitive topics. The pre-meeting assignment involves asking someone about their beliefs and why they hold them. During the cohort activity, participants discuss their conversations from the pre-meeting assignment and use the Street Epistemology techniques to question the belief holder. Participants are encouraged to provide feedback and discuss the effectiveness of the techniques used. Optional supplemental material includes additional resources on Street Epistemology.
Using Your Voice
The Using Your Voice workshop is focused on helping individuals use and appreciate their voice. The instructional material includes videos on finding and creating distinct voices, as well as an assignment to practice speaking in different styles. The cohort activity involves practicing saying a sentence with different emphasis and articulating why that changes the implied meaning. Additionally, participants are asked to give a short speech to the group and receive feedback. The optional activity involves finding a celebrity to imitate and breaking down one’s own speech pattern.
I found the character sheet system to be very helpful. In two words its just a ranked list of “features”/goals you’re working towards, with a comment slot (it’s just a google sheet).
I could list personal improvements I was able to gain from the regular use of this tool, like weight loss/exercise habits etc., but that feels too much like bragging. Also, I can’t prove correlation vs causation.
The cohort system provides a cool social way to keep yourself accountable to yourself.
When you say “The workshops were highly successful in 2022”, what do you mean by this?
Frankly, I expected this post to have a lot more commentary on the results of any of these workshops. Whatever goals you had in running these (which, for most of these, remain opaque to me even after reading the workshops’ descriptions)—were they achieved? How did you evaluate whether the goals were achieved?
Separately, I’d like some more information on the format of these workshops. When you say “one weekly session”, what does that mean? A video chat? Something else? How long? How many? How many participants were in each workshop?
Thanks for the questions. I should have explained what I meant by successful. The criteria we set out internally included:
Maintaining good attendance and member retention. Member attrition this year was far below the typical rate for similar groups.
Maintaining positive post-workshop feedback indicating members are enjoying the workshops (plus or minus specific critical feedback here and there). Some workshops were more well received than others, some were widely loved, some were less popular, but the average quality remains very positive according to user feedback. (We try to collect user feedback at the end of each workshop.)
Demonstrated improvement over time in the recurring workshops. For example, we observed increased fluency with decision theory in the decision-making workshops month to month.
We are happy with our metrics on all these fronts, above expectations, which is “highly successful” by my lights.
The workshops take the following format: Each Guild member is placed in a cohort group according to schedule compatibility upon joining. Let’s assume for the sake of this explanation that you are in the Wednesday night cohort. The landing page (the pages linked in the OP) for the workshop is posted Monday. You check the landing page, and you have until the following Wednesday (>1 week later) to complete the pre-workshop reading or exercises. You then join the workshop session for your cohort time slot via the Guild of the Rose Discord video chat. A cohort session leader guides the members through the in-session exercises and discussions. In the past the sessions lasted one hour but we have more recently been experimenting with 90 minute sessions to good effect. The typical attendance varies depending on the cohort, since some timezones have far fewer Guild members. Workshops sessions are broken out into smaller discussion groups if too many people show up.
It is funny that I kept the commentary at the start of the post short and refrained from talking too much about Guild goals and policies and details not immediately relevant to the workshop overview so that the whole post didn’t come off as an ad … and I still got accused of posting an ad, so I should have just gone for it and laid out all the results in detail. Oh well, next year.
The title says “Reflecting on the 2022 Guild of the Rose Workshops” but the article does not discuss the results of the workshops or the experiences related to operating them. Instead, the article lists the contents of each past workshop.
Is it possible to update the title to better reflect the article’s contents?
I think that if you are going to aggressively advertise your company/guild/cult by posting over 25 links to your company website, you should at least be up front that the product you’re selling isn’t free. For this reason, I’ve strongly downvoted this post.
Weak downvoted. The links above aren’t paywalled, and our homepage states that there’s a subscription to join as a full member. A substantial portion of our members (about 20%) asked us to waive their subscription and we have a long standing policy of granting these requests with no questions asked. (While this isn’t mentioned on the site, it’s the first thing you see upon joining the Discord server, which doesn’t require you to pay us anything.)
Uh the Guild does ask for money but we are completely free as long as you send us even one emeial. the money is nice to continue the work of expanding but that is NOT why we do this. Several of our students pay nothing at all
Source: Me, I am a Member of the Guild Council