When we first heard about Rob Lawless of @robs10kfriends on Instagram, we couldn’t help but tie what he’s doing with kindness. In a nutshell, the 27-year-old has set out to meet 10,000 new people, 1:1, and he documents each person’s unique story on his Instagram page (I was person #2016!). Rob is originally from Norristown, PA, but is currently living in Long Beach, CA. After graduating from Penn State in 2013 with a degree in Finance, he worked as a Business Analyst at Deloitte Consulting for a year and a half, then went into tech sales for a startup. Amid all this, he had the genius idea to start his project and took it full time after being laid off from his job in the June of 2016. By giving his time to people of all backgrounds and listening to their life experiences, Rob is doing his part in spreading warmth and good vibes — which we believe is a form of kindness. He’ll be in LA through mid October, then plans on heading back to Philadelphia for November and December before he takes his project abroad!
Kindkess Karma: Can you talk a little bit about Robs10kfriends for those who don’t know anything about it? What inspired it and how can people get involved?
Robs10kFriends is my mission to spend 1 hour, 1:1, with 10,000 different people to learn about people’s lives and to see what comes of opening doors for no particular reason. I meet up with everyone and chat with them as if we’re old friends who haven’t caught up in a while and then I take a picture with them and post a bit about what I learned of their story to my Instagram, @robs10kfriends. A lot of people mistakenly believe I’m interviewing people because I write about them afterwards, but in reality, I’m just having casual conversations with the goal of being able to run into those people in the future as friends as opposed to strangers, a luxury I had during my time at Penn State.
Because I was involved in a bunch of different clubs and activities, I knew a lot of people on campus and would always stop and say hello to them. Realizing that I really missed that sense of community after graduation combined with my passion for entrepreneurship (my minor at PSU), I thought I could try to dedicate my life to meeting 10,000 people instead of trying to make Partner at Deloitte (my previous path), hoping it’d be an interesting enough concept that I could eventually live off of the project. Though it’s been almost three years since I started, we’re just beginning to get to the point of stability, which is really exciting! To date, I’ve met over 2,000 people and would love to meet anyone who’s interested in being part of the project – all they have to do is shoot me a DM on Instagram at @robs10kfriends!
KK: What does kindness mean to you and how does it play into your project?
I believe kindness means treating people with respect. Through my project, I’ve heard stories from people of all different races, religions, sexual orientations, etc. and have treated each of their stories with care and respect because I’ve wanted to establish a human connection with them. I’ve also been shown an incredible amount of kindness by those who meet with me, whether it’s through hosting me at their homes, treating me to a coffee, donating to the project, or listening to my story with care and respect. I believe kindness is one of those things that we can sometimes want to build into this large-scale concept of something that changes the world, but for me, it’s the smallest forms of it that mean the most.
KK: Do the people you meet exude kindness?
The people I meet definitely exude kindness! Probably the story that sticks out the most to me is the first time I ever traveled to Seattle. After hearing about my project through Instagram, a guy named David Hidalgo (#1871 of my project) reached out to me via email and explained that he couldn’t come to LA because of work; however, if I was willing, he would fly me up to Seattle and give me a place to stay so I could meet him and his friends up there. After a handful of messages and a couple of phone calls to ensure we were both comfortable and trusting enough of each other, he booked my flight and then picked me up from the airport the night I flew in. The experience was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I wanted to prove to myself that there are good people in the world, and I definitely did. David hosted me the entire weekend, showed me around the touristy spots of Seattle, introduced me to his friends, picked up the tabs of our meals and left me with the impression that some people really do want to offer genuine support to each other!
KK: What are some everyday acts of kindness that you’ve done to help those around you and how did it make you feel?
I enjoy doing acts of kindness such as holding the door for people, picking up trash, or smiling at strangers on the streets (especially those who look like they’re struggling and could use a smile) because I see no downside to them. For me, I view the investment as a small amount of time or effort with the reward being lightening someone’s mood or maybe storing up good karma for the future, both which make me feel I’m growing as a person and having a very small but useful ripple effect on the world.
KK: You meet with a lot of people on a daily basis and are a people person by nature. Any advice on how those that aren’t people people can learn to become more open to those around them?
I would recommend starting with something just outside of your comfort zone (e.g. meeting a friend of a friend), going through that experience, seeing how you feel about it, and then pushing the boundary a bit further. I used to have a bit of social anxiety when going into my meetings with people, but once I began meeting 4-5 people per day, I became really confident and comfortable with the idea of meeting strangers. This was partially the result of me just knowing what to expect and partially the result of me becoming a better conversationalist by talking to so many people that I allowed myself to build up a library of topics and questions to cover.
I met a group of guys who run a YouTube channel called Yes Theory and their whole belief is that the more you say “yes” to uncomfortable situations, the more confident you become going into those situations in the future. Rather than trying to become a people person overnight, I’d recommend people treat it like a workout plan that involves incremental effort and progress. Whether you’re naturally extroverted or introverted, you will become more open and comfortable the more you allow yourself to do it!
KK: Complete this sentence: Kindness is…
all around you if you look for it.