Did you know that the average American knows about 600 people? The other day, I met someone who, based on this premise, is anything but average. This doesn’t come as a surprise, though, for Rob Lawless’ last name already implies that rules don’t apply to him.
Two years ago, Rob initiated a project called “Robs10kFriends“. His goal is to meet 10,000 people. When I found out about this initiative, I immediately dropped Rob a message and we agreed to grab coffee in North Hollywood the following day.
Less than 24 hours later, Rob and I meet in front of The Republic of Pie. “Hey dude!”, somebody says as we enter the coffee shop. Rob turns to me and explains: “I actually got to know him through this project too.”
As we wait for our order, I’m wondering how much coffee Rob must have drank during the past two years, ever since he started his project. I’m #2110 on his list, he tells me as we sit down at a table outside.
Sense of community
“I wanted to keep that sense of community”, Rob explains his motivation. Originally, he’s from Philadelphia. “I went to Penn State University and I knew a lot of people when I was a student there. So, I got to a point when things like the encounter I just had would happen at school. And I wanted that to happen outside of school too.”
After Rob graduated with a degree in Finance and minors in Accounting and Entrepreneurship, he began a career as a business analyst and later as a sales rep. When the company he was working for was bought out and Rob was laid off, he decided to focus full time on his project. He’s mostly living off sponsorships now.
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2110. “I’ve never seen so many policemen and cars in my life. It was so crazy.” Two months into her internship at the Austrian newspaper, Kleine Zeitung, Claudia Felsberger was tasked with covering the story of a manhunt to capture a fugitive. She arrived to the scene about 5 mins after they captured the guy and, in the intensity of that moment, realized that she was in the right career for her personality. Since then, Claudia graduated with her degrees in Media Studies and English and took a full-time position with the newspaper (mainly covering crime) where she’s now been for a total of 6 years. Recently, though, she took a sabbatical to travel around the United States and capture stories from the people here for her personal blog. In college, she had studied abroad, spending a semester at @uwf, and fell in love with traveling. Though she’s returning to her position at the newspaper in 2019, Claudia is visiting LA right now before flying to D.C. to intern with the Austrian embassy in November and December. She loves asking questions and telling stories and plans to continue growing in her journalism career; however, she’s not quite sure what she wants to do long-term, sharing that whenever she tries to think about it she gets overwhelmed. So for now, she’ll enjoy her time touring the states and meeting cool people here! So great to meet you, @thatsmeonline! #10kfriends #losangeles #noho #austria #newspaper #journalism #journalist #blogger #travel #embassy #meetingpeople • How we met: Claudia came across my project via @instagram somehow and then DM’ed me to meet!
Throughout the past months, he has met numerous interesting people daily. He usually spends an hour with them to talk about their lives, their background and their goals. One person whose story particularly stuck to his mind was Chris.
“When he was 16, he was living in Romania and flew to New York to go boating on the Hudson with some friends”, Rob says. “He fell off the boat and got run over by it, causing his legs to be sucked up into the engines. He described it as if his legs had been put into a blender.”
Doctors gave Chris a 12 percent chance of ever walking again and a 15 percent chance of living, Rob writes in a recent Reddit thread: “He beat both odds and we spent our hour together walking around the streets of Philly.”
I want to know if there has ever been an awkward encounter. “There’s only brief moment of awkwardness, if at all”, Rob says. “That usually happens when the person is shy or nervous and meets up with me to step out of their comfort zone.”
There’s only brief moment of awkwardness, if at all.
There are a couple of go to topics Rob likes to talk about to keep the conversation going, ranging from the person’s family all the way to trivial things such as their favorite Netflix shows.
Last minute cancellations and no-shows
But what if the person doesn’t show up in the first place? “There have been people who cancelled last minute. Or they didn’t come at all”, Rob says. “It is a little bit frustrating if that happens, but if it does, I just use the time to respond to messages.”
Since his project has gained a broader range attention, there have been tons of requests of people who want to meet up with him. If everything goes according to his plans, Rob will be traveling around in Europe next year which will allow him to meet people from various countries.
Nevertheless, it’s probably going to take Rob about ten years until he has finally reached his goal. “I’ll be 37 years old by then and maybe I’ll be married and have kids”, he says. “But of course, I would love to continue to meet people after that.”