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December 15, 2016

Meet Rob Lawless.

565. "You don't really live, I think, if you don't feel something." As a creative writer, Daniela Ayuso wants to make people feel emotion through her work. Personally, she describes herself as reserved when it comes to emotion, but pays close attention to the way tangible things, such as the wind, make her feel. Daniela prefers a soft breeze to harsh wind or no wind at all, but generally enjoys living in the moment. She first got into writing because she enjoyed reading books so much that she thought she'd be good at creating them. For now, Daniela's favorite type of writing is fiction, but she also dabbles in poetry and nonfiction. Though she keeps most of her work to herself now, she recognizes that she'll someday put it out for the world to read! Thanks for hanging, @bandit_cecilia! #10kfriends #philly #temple #writer #emotion #wind #fiction #meetingpeople • How we met: Daniela saw that her friend, @leiilanii (#526), was part of my project so she DM'ed me to meet!

A photo posted by 🌎 Rob Lawless (@robs10kfriends) on

That’s him on the left.

Actually, chances are you already have. Rob is on a mission to make 10,000 friends and he’s documenting the whole thing on his Instagram account: @robs10kfriends. He’s also doing it all right here in Philadelphia.

Here are four stops he’s made along the way so far.

Penn State University

Rob’s first meet-up.

First off, what would inspire someone to actually want to meet 10,000 people? For Rob, it’s the community aspect of the whole thing.

Rob graduated from Penn State a few years ago and made a move to Philly, during which he remembers feeling like he lost some sense of community. Frequenting various clubs and activities on campus, he would rarely walk to and from class without stopping and talking to several people he considered friends along the way. It’s a sense of community he wanted to recreate in his post-college life.

The number 10,000 specifically? Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s famous rule: If you do anything for 10,000 hours, you’re considered an expert at that thing. 10,000 is the magic number.

“Also I always say that’s a number that allows this to become something bigger than a side project,” Rob told me. “It’s something that I hopefully will turn into my life’s work. It should take me about 10 years to complete it.”

A full-time gig

138. Valerie Hoke, a Content Specialist at @chatterblast, and I met up to chat at @saxbys_coffee. Valerie was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ and attended @uarizona where she studied English. I asked her what drew her to that major and she said she liked writing the required essays after reading books in high school. Though AP English almost killed her passion for the subject, she took an English & Literary Analysis class in college and has loved it since then. Outside of English, she's a big superhero fan and favors @marvel over @dccomics, particularly the Captain America universe. She just moved to Philly from the west coast last year and noted how cool it is that everyone has pride in their respective neighborhoods here. Great chatting with you, @valperiepal! #10kfriends #philly #english #literature #marvel #watchmen #meetingpeople How we met: Valerie came across the article that @zayjed (#91) wrote for @technical_ly on my project and then DM'ed me to meet!

A photo posted by 🌎 Rob Lawless (@robs10kfriends) on

Hey, we know her.

Today, Rob is doing his project full-time, but it didn’t really begin that way. After graduating, Rob had spent time working at both Deloitte and RJMetrics.

“My sales experience from RJMetrics was a big help for this,” Lawless says. “I would just be cold emailing people and then I would direct message people on Instagram.”

A lot of the initial outreached focused on people in the creative community who are typically more likely to support this type of creative endeavor. Today, worrying about outreach isn’t so much a problem as being able to respond to everybody reaching out to him.

Slippin’ and slidin’ in the DMs

378. We took our picture in front of this piece because of the eyes. Katrina Briskin has always loved eyes and hands (she has a keychain of each) because she tells me they're protection from the evil eye, which symbolizes curses or bad intentions in Russian culture. She taught me that if you joke about something bad, you need to knock on wood (or your head) and spit over your left shoulder 3 times to fix it. Katrina also loves art so we walked up to 5th & Cecil B. Moore today to check out the walls of graffiti there, which did not disappoint. Though she pursued the subject in high school, she's now studying International Business as a junior at @templeuniv! Thanks for the adventure, @k.sssssssssssssss! #10kfriends #philly #graffiti #evileye #russia #superstition #meetingpeople • How we met: Katrina came across my project (remind me how, @k.sssssssssssssss?) and then DM'ed me to meet!

A photo posted by 🌎 Rob Lawless (@robs10kfriends) on

Wow. 

Rob is now at nearly 600 friends and, as you might imagine, once this thing reached a certain point, Rob’s source of friends kind of started generating itself. Over a couple of weeks alone, Rob can expect around one hundred people to slide in his Instagram DMs (the best place to reach him if you’d like to link up).

“If I reach 5,000 people and have 5,000 message requests that could be like the rest of the people right there,” he says. “I think I’ll become less accessible at some point.”

You might be wise to try it sooner than later.

Sponsorships and the future

139. Ashley Stettler, a current student at @templeuniv, and I met up to chat at the Piazza. Ashley grew up in Quakertown and came to the city to pursue an Advertising degree at Temple where she's heavily involved in the Honors Program. She recently returned from a semester abroad in Rome and plans to study internationally again in South Africa. I asked what her favorite part was and she said taking the time to sit and think and process the cultural differences between countries, which she never had the chance to do here in America. When talking about our ideal lives, Ashley said she'd be perfectly content working in a coffee shop in a foreign country and would love to live life as a nomad. Thanks for the chat, @ashleystettler, and best of luck with your future travels! #10kfriends #philly #rome #studyabroad #nomad #dowhatyoulove #malcolmgladwell #meetingpeople How we met: @the_brittjames (#63) commented on the picture he and I took together and tagged a bunch of his contacts (Ashley being one of them) so I DM’ed Ashley to meet!

A photo posted by 🌎 Rob Lawless (@robs10kfriends) on

Rob sure is.

As you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking the same thing I was: How in the world is this guy to make a living wage by essentially making friends full time?

Rob’s hopeful about the potential the project holds. Ideally, When Rob’s 10K Friends reaches a certain point, a company whose values matches that of the project would approach him for sponsorship. Then you’d have “Rob’s 10K Friends presented by X.” Then, post-project, there may be speaking engagements and potentially a book in the works.

Some solutions, Rob says, he probably hasn’t even thought of yet. And that’s exciting.

“It’s cool because not only am I thinking about it, but over 400 people have asked me, so obviously I’m not the only one thinking about it. Someone else might have an answer eventually.”

If you’ve got a big idea for Rob or even would just like to meet him for an hour or so to say hello and hear more about his story, hit him up on Instagram. 

About the Author

Kyle Krajewski

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