• Rob Lawless: On a Mission to Meet 10,000 People 

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    Meeting people can be, quite frankly, scary at times. Awkward chit-chat, the necessary “getting to know you” conversation — it can all be a lot. For Rob Lawless, however, meeting people has become a passion project of his. As the founder of the Instagram account @robs10kfriends, Rob has set a goal of meeting 10,000 people, spending an hour with every single one of them to share their story. As this week’s Hoboken Guy of the Week, learn all about how Rob started his project, what inspires him, and more. Read on to learn all about Rob Lawless, on a mission to meet 10,000 people. 

    rob laweless hoboken

    Tell us about yourself. 

    I am a man on a mission to spend one hour, one-on-one, with 10,000 different people to see what comes of creating connections without any agenda. Since starting this Philly-based project in November of 2015, I’ve taken this project full-time, surviving off of partnerships with brands like WeWork. I’ve also met over 2,800 people across 20+ cities in the U.S. and Canada, documenting their stories through my Instagram account, @robs10kfriends. To date, I’ve been covered by a handful of awesome press sources, including Ryan Seacrest on his national radio show, “On Air with Ryan Seacrest,” and will be appearing on Kelly Clarkson’s new talk show, The Kelly Clarkson Show.

    What inspired you to start this project?

    When I was a student at Penn State, I was heavily involved in clubs and activities on campus. As a result, I started to bump into people I knew everywhere I went, whether I was on the way to class or out at the bars. I also majored in finance and minored in accounting and entrepreneurship. I knew that I’d land a secure job with my finance degree; however, I always felt like entrepreneurship represented the idea of chasing a dream. Therefore, after evaluating what I felt most passionate about — meeting new people —I thought there may be a way to get back to the sense of community I felt as a student at Penn State while also creating my own path in life through starting this journey.

    Who is your biggest source of inspiration?

    My biggest sources of inspiration are actually the incredible friends I made throughout my time as a student at Penn State. While there, I was involved in several different clubs and activities, ranging from being a tour guide to dancing in the school’s 46-hour philanthropy event, THON. I found that I missed the ability to make organic connections like I had at Penn State and, as a result, felt inspired to start this project.

    My friends have also been a huge support for me over the past few years. I was able to expand my project to the West Coast thanks to my friend TJ, who kindly hosted me there for over a year and I’m here now in Hoboken, thanks to my friends Nick and Catherine, who are letting me use their extra bedroom for the next few months.

    What are your goals for this year?

    Before this year is over, I’d like to take my project abroad. I took it international for the first time this summer when an office furniture company {at Work Office Furniture} flew me up to Canada to meet people in Toronto and London, Ontario, but I think it’d be awesome to make it overseas.

    I’m also hoping to reach the 3,000 mark by the end of 2019 and hope to continuously inspire other people to get out and start making new connections. 

    At the beginning of the year, I published an article, How to Meet 12 New People in 2019, in which I challenged people to meet one new person, one-on-one, for an hour each, during each month of the year. I’ve seen people from California to Lithuania take on the challenge, which has been really fulfilling and I would love to see this trend continue.

    rob lawless

    {Photo credit: @robs10kfriends}

    ^ Rob with Kate, from Team HG! 

    What’s a typical day look like for you?

    I typically wake up around 7:00AM so I can head to the gym and make breakfast/lunch before heading out to meetings for the day. I then meet four new people, whom are all scheduled in advance, at 10:00AM, 12:00PM, 2:00PM, and 4:00PM. I meet each person for one hour and use the hours in between to write about what I’ve learned from them before posting their stories to my Instagram account.

    I usually arrive home around 6:00PM, grab dinner with my roommates, and then hang out with them while I answer messages/set up times with people to meet for the following week. I’m then in bed by 11:00PM, ready to get my sleep so I can do it all again the next day.

    What has been the highlight of your project so far?

    In terms of my project, flying out to LA to appear as a guest on The Kelly Clarkson Show definitely tops the list. Having friends who I’ve met through my project come out to support me as audience members was such a special moment, which helped ease my nerves about sharing my story on a national talk show. I had never appeared on a public platform this large before, so I definitely had jitters going into it.

    I had a great time sharing my story with Kelly, who was such a down-to-earth host and fortunately had the opportunity to thank everyone who had taken the time to be there that day, in-person after the taping. Doing this type of project, I never really know when I’ll pop back into the lives of those whom I’ve met — having the opportunity to do so on national television was something I’ll remember for a long time.

    Who was the first person you met and what was it like?

    The first person I met was Jim Brady, the founder of an online Philly news site, BillyPenn.com. The meeting went well — we talked about career paths and had lunch at Cosi in Philly. I specifically remember Jim asking me, “What am I, like the 1000th or 2000th person you’ve met?” and I shyly replied, “No, you’re the first person! You’re the start of the project.”

    See More: Meet Amanda Lederman: Living Her Dream at BlogHer

    What has been the best experience of doing this project so far?

    My favorite experience through doing this project has been spending an hour flying over the coast of San Diego with Tyson McDowell, in a plane that he had built himself. When we first connected, he asked me if I wanted to fly in a modern or historical aircraft to which I obviously replied, “Yes!” However, I didn’t know that he had built the aircraft on his own until we got to the hangar. During the hour, I felt a mix of fighting off a panic attack, trying not to throw up from the G-forces, and having an absolute blast getting to know Tyson as we cruised above the Pacific Ocean.

    rob lawless project

    {Photo credit: @robs10kfriends}

    ^ Rob and Arielle, from Team HG! 

    What is your favorite part about this project turning into your career?

    My favorite part about this project turning into my career is really the whole journey aspect of it. I’m the type of person who needs to be busy in order to be fulfilled and this project keeps me endlessly occupied with something that I’m extremely passionate about. While I love the freedom to choose my own schedule, the perspective I gain through the people I’m meeting, and the satisfaction of making the world a bit of a smaller place for all of us, I personally gain a lot of fulfillment through having an idea, which once existed simply as an iPhone note, turn into a reality that’s starting to have an impact on those around me.

    What has been the most memorable part of this whole experience?

    The most memorable part of this experience was actually my appearance as a guest on The Kelly Clarkson Show. While being on the show was amazing, I’ll always remember the experience for the fact that the entire audience was made up of people whom I’ve met through my project. I was definitely nervous to be on the show, but walking out to a room full of familiar faces, who were all there to support me, was something I’ll carry with me for a long time to come.

    What has been the hardest part of this experience? 

    I think the hardest part of this journey has been constantly proving to people that I’m on a credible life path. Often times, this has come up with folks from the older generations in my life. When I was a consultant at Deloitte, no one questioned my path or intelligence; however, I’ve found that when I no longer had the brand of a large company attached to my name, people questioned what I was doing with my life.

    Many of them were right in doing so because for the first few years I watched my savings account drop and drop as I held onto the idea that I would someday be able to secure partnerships to keep myself going. I had to lean on those around me for support during this time {like crashing with my college roommate in LA or moving back in with my parents in Philly}, but I knew that I would eventually be able to pay them back. Now, having worked with brands like the Center City District of Philadelphia, WeWork, and Penn Medicine, I feel like things are finally starting to click to where I can confidently speak about my path going forward.

    Where do you see this project going in the future?

    I see this project constantly unfolding in front of me and surprising me with the directions in which it goes; however, I’m currently thinking about doing a 50-state road trip to meet 10 people in every state in the country and turning that into a documentary to give people a behind the scenes look at my life. Beyond that, I hope to someday meet people in all different cities/countries around the world. And in the long-term, I see myself using my experiences to create environments where human connection is both accepted and encouraged, most likely through teaching a freshman seminar at a college/university where students spend their time learning from each other as opposed to textbooks or PowerPoint slides.

    What happens when you hit 10k? 

    I’d love to have some sort of reunion to celebrate! Who knows, I’m anticipating that point being about 10 years away and I’m not much of a planner, but hopefully I could have some help in pulling it together. At that point in my life I’d love to focus my time and energy on my wife and kids {life milestones I hope to reach before the project is finished}, would love to continue meeting one or two new people each day without any type of new goal attached to it, and would love to settle down in the Philly area to teach a course on human connection at one of the universities there.

    What is the biggest common theme from everyone you’ve met?

    The biggest thing I’ve learned through my project, from meeting people of all ages and levels of success, is that none of us really know what we’re doing with our lives. We’re all just doing the best we can with the resources that we have. I believe that most people walk around thinking that everyone but them has their life together when the reality is that no one has their life together. Therefore, I think we should all take a little bit of the pressure we put on ourselves off of our shoulders.

    Read More: Meet Vanessa Rissetto: A Local Dietitian + Nutritionist in Hoboken

    rob lawless robs 10k friends

    Tell us about another business in the area you admire.

    I’m relatively new to Hoboken so I can only speak from limited experience, but, being a Penn State grad, I recently went to The Inn {formerly known as Pour House} this past weekend to watch the football game. I now admire them because, aside from their pre-game open bar special, the owners came around to every table, thanking the patrons for coming out to the restaurant.

    Still coming back from construction, they had catered food for the guests because their kitchen wasn’t up and running yet. I felt that they really cared about the people in their establishment and it felt like a warm welcome to the city from my perspective.

    Hoboken + Jersey City Favorites

    What is your favorite restaurant in Hoboken?

    The Inn.

    What is your favorite boutique in Hoboken?

    Bwe Kafe.

    What do you love most about Hoboken?

    I really enjoy the walk-ability of Hoboken. As someone who gains energy from being around others, I love the fact that I’m constantly passing other people on the streets as they walk to work or enjoy the outdoor seating at restaurants in the area.

    What is your favorite thing to do in Hudson County?

    Hanging out with my friends/hosts, Nick and Catherine, and take their labradoodle, Colby, for walks around town.

    How long have you lived and/or worked in Hoboken?

    Two weeks — I’m excited to get to know the area as I meet more and more people for my project here.

    What is your favorite outdoor place to spend time in Hoboken?

    Pier 13 — love those views!

    What is your favorite place to work out in Hudson County?

    I recently became a member at the Planet Fitness on Washington Street. Living more of a bootstrapping lifestyle right now, I appreciate their prices.

    Where do you go out with friends in the area?

    I’ve been to Pier 13, Elysian Cafe, Jefferson’s Coffee, Bwe Kafe, and The Inn so far. I hear I still have a ton of places to explore though.

    What is something you think needs to come to Hoboken? 

    As someone who’s only been here for two weeks, I don’t yet feel qualified to answer this question, but I’ll let you know in a few months.

    Is there anything else you’d like to share?

    I actually lived in Hoboken for three months during my first job out of school. I worked as a consultant for Deloitte and stayed at the W while I worked on a client in Jersey City. I’m happy to be back in the area among friends and am excited to spend more time exploring the area rather than just sleeping here in between work shifts.

    Keep up with Rob on Instagram at @robs10kfriends, Facebook, Twitter, and on his website, www.robs10kfriends.com. You can also email him at robs10kfriends@gmail.com. Also, be sure to listen to Rob share more about his story on Tea on the Hudson here

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    Written by:

    Arielle is a born-and-bred Jersey girl and like a true NJ native, half her diet consists of bagels and the other half pizza. As a graduate of both American University and City, University of London, she’s been a passionate writer ever since she wrote her first “book” in the first grade. When she’s not furiously typing away at her keyboard, she spends her time ticking places off of her “to travel to” list, trying any and all new foods, and trying to stop herself from spending too much money at Zara.


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