Rob Lawless is on a quest to make new friends.
Inspired by the “10,000 Hour Rule,” made popular in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers.” In the book, Gladwell states that 10,000 hours of practice in a particular field makes one an expert. Lawless is trying to rack up 10,000 hours of personal time with complete strangers.
“If I make an average of three new friends a day, it should take me about 10 years to meet my end goal,” he said.
Lawless has made his goal of making 10,000 friends a full-time project: Robs10kFriends. After being laid off from his job at a data analytics company, he decided he wanted to regain the sense of community he felt in his life while attending Penn State.
“Whenever I would walk around campus, I’d always see people I knew, and would always get a ‘Hey, what’s up man,’ from a bunch of different people,” he said. “When I left school and went into the real world, I lost that sense of community, so this is my way of recapturing that.”
Although Lawless said he’s naturally outgoing and social, the project has still been tough to handle.
“It’s been exhausting, but it’s an exhaustion that I like,” he said. “It’s truly non-stop though, all the way. I usually meet with three to five people a day, and go back home in between each person to write a little story about my time with them.”
“I end up having just enough time to get to each person and back home to write about it, and then when I’m finished for the day … [I] talk to everyone who I still need to schedule with until I fall asleep,” he added. “It’s constant, but it’s worth it.”
Lawless often meets his new friends at coffee shops around the city. Sarah Matheny, a sophomore risk management and insurance major, met Lawless at One Shot Café in Northern Liberties.
Theresa Regan, a journalism professor, met Lawless at La Colombe in Fishtown.
“I was instantly greeted with such a warm and excited energy that it made the whole hour or so that we spent hanging out really fun and easygoing,” she wrote in an email. “It felt as if I had known him for much longer than a few minutes.”
Hannah Burns, a sophomore international business major, is another one of the new friends Lawless has made.
“[He was] attentive to detail and would repeat things I mentioned one time and ask more about it,” Burns said. “I felt like we both shared so much information in that one hour … so many things I shared are things even my friends at Temple have yet to learn about me.”
Lawless said his favorite part about the project is connecting other people.
“I really like to know people and I like to connect other people,” he said. “If I meet two people and I see that they’d be a good fit to connect with each other and they wouldn’t cross paths otherwise, I get to say, ‘You guys should meet,’”
“I feel like when I’m finished with this project, I’ll be doing that full-time,” he added. “You come meet this person. You go meet that person.”
With now more than 430 “new friends” since he started the project in June, Lawless is showing no signs of slowing down.
“I’m a very adventurous person, and this project allows me to be adventurous,” he said. “I get to travel all over the place meeting new people, and everyone is always different … Back when I was doing consulting, it was getting to be a bit monotonous. With this though, you never know what’s gonna happen next, or what the next person will hold.”
Dylan Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.