Start a Dojo


Congratulations on your exciting decision to start a Rationality Dojo. Because of dedicated leaders like you, people worldwide are becoming more successful in their thought, communication and action. In deciding to start a Dojo, you have taken on an important role. Cognitive science shows that people can discover and enhance their latent talents by participating in the regular activities of a Rationality Dojo.

In your new Dojo, members will learn valuable skills to benefit their personal and professional lives. You will be encouraged to present and participate in a comprehensive, self-paced education program.

The good news is that starting a Rationality Dojo is much easier than you may think! Use this guide to get going and follow the steps to build a successful Dojo. You will have plenty of support and resources along the way. Good luck with your new Dojo!

Why do you want to start a Rationality Dojo?

A Rationality Dojo is generally not just a social chit chat get together. It's structured setting to practice more effective thinking skills.

You may be starting from scratch or you may already have an existing group that you'd like to transform into a Rationality Dojo.

If you have an existing group this probably means you already have a meeting once a month or more, and you have a location where you can meet as well as a time when you meet.  You probably also have common interests, topics or activities for the group.  Great!

We'd like to encourage you to take what you know and run experiments.  For example, head to our curriculum page and actually try some of the tasks.  If you want to know how it works, you can't just sit around reading, you need to try it and see for yourself.

Start by making a list of all the ways in which you might like to improve your life.  Or the problems you face.  Then ask where you might find solutions to these problems.  As a leader of a Dojo, you and your fellow leaders are tasked with researching the scientific methods for whatever actually yields success against our current challenges.

When you want to start sharing the skills you picked up along the way to solve your specific problems is when it’s time to start a Dojo.
So how does it work?  A lot of that is up to you.  How you find your information and what you are looking for in solving your problems.  The purpose of a Rationality Dojo is to actually try things.  We love to talk, we love to research, but we also know that in an exploration-exploitation problem - the gains or growth comes from actually exploiting your knowledge, not just exploring.

Public Dojos are not about making a profit, they are about forming a goal-seeking and truth-seeking community.  With that in mind, the goal is not to charge attendees for your time, but rather to recover costs associated with running the Dojo.  For example if you have to pay a room hire fee.  One important thing we do is give out free paper notebooks.  We do this because it’s an important principle of growth; gathering evidence in order to better understand the world around you. With a notebook people can also better participate and take notes of our exercises as we run them.

STEP 1: Learn how a Rationality Dojo works

Check out a current Dojo

Each Rationality Dojo has it's own personality, so it's a good idea to visit a Dojo and consider what kind of environment you'd like to create.

Get advice from a Dojo Mentor

Talking to or meeting with an experienced Dojo Mentor who has gone through the process is a great way to get your Dojo started. They will be able to provide you with encouragement, advice and feedback and are often excited and willing to help.

Contact us to be connected with a Dojo Mentor for you to call on and ask any questions.

STEP 2: Bring together your leadership team


It’s best to have 2-3 organisers.  This way you can share the responsibility.  With less than two it can be stressful, and there is limited accountability.  With more than three it can be hard to keep track of who is supposed to do what, and you need to start having regular communication just to stay on the same page.

Your overall responsibility is to optimise the Dojo experience for members and guests.

STEP 3: Choose a place for your Rationality Dojo to meet

A quiet place to meet and talk, but one where you can make noise if necessary.  This place needs to be accessible via public transport, reasonably cheap, and semi-private.

A tech co-working space may find it a great value add to have you in their premises. A public library might be quiet but not allow you to make noise of your own.  A university study area might be suitable but have stricter security provisions. A private home might be quiet and free, but not accessible for participants.  A cafe might be expensive, and a bar might be loud but otherwise free.

When you pick a venue the main aspects you are trying to meet are:

  • Centrally located to the people you expect to attend
  • Close to public transport
  • Private or semi-private
  • Weather-proof (not going to be rained on, or a weather contingency plan) (and generally not too stuffy or too cold)
  • Not too noisy
  • Where you can make some noise if you need
  • Big enough for 10-20 people, and not too big
  • Chairs
  • Optional: whiteboard.

If you can't seem to find a perfect location; don't fret!  Take a close second option, and keep looking. It's better to have something than nothing.  And who knows - maybe one of your participants will champion a new location.

Step 4: Educational Program

A curriculum that engages and empowers your members

Your task is to know your members so well that you know how to help them grow.  That means while conducting your Dojos you want to be able to find out people's goals, current challenges, as well as some of their history and how it influences their future.

First Dojo Program

For sample scripts we've drafted some suggested curriculum sessions here. More will be added soon. We encourage you to find your own resources and share them with us too!

STEP 5: Promotion

Bring together the people you want to have as members

We would suggest a Facebook group, a post on LessWrong, and an optional Meetup group.  Also if you connect with us, we can list your Rationality Dojo on this site.

We are working on some templates you can use to simply copy-paste into these platforms, making it even easier for you to run and promote your Dojo.

How many people?

It's often more effective to have a smaller group that has core members who keep coming back, rather than a larger group where people only come once or twice. Consistency is key.

A Rationality Dojo can start with six people.  We suggest that 20 be the maximum number of regular participants, any larger and it can diminish the quality of the experience.

If you have over 15 regulars it might be time to champion a new leader and create a second more advanced Dojo.

Tips for a Successful First Year

All Dojo members contribute to the atmosphere of the Dojo. During your first year it's important to foster a positive environment so existing members can enjoy their experience and potential members are encouraged to join. Here are a few more tips to help you succeed with your Dojo.

Choose a location that is pleasant and comfortable.

Provide clear directions for newcomers.

Start and end on time.

Ensure the room is set up in advance.

Greet guests warmly, and introduce them to others.

Provide each member and guest with an agenda.

Enthusiastically participate.

Ensure material is well-prepared.

Provide notebooks for members to write in.