How To Change The World Without Spending a Cent

With expert advice from the man who knows how, Afdhel Aziz.

On December 26, 2004, a massive tsunami hit the coast of Sri Lanka killing 30,000.

It’s a date that Afdhel Aziz will never forget.

The award-winning marketing professional was in the country to attend his brother’s wedding. Afdhel (and his brother too) escaped injury, but he was deeply affected by the event, something that became only too obvious when he returned to his then home base of London.

“I would be walking down the street and I’d burst into tears,” Afdhel said.

“I would just start sobbing.”

Afdhel saw a psychologist and was diagnosed with a specific form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder known as survivor guilt.

He responded by quitting his job immediately.

Image: Afdhel Aziz
I started thinking about what I wanted to leave behind as my legacy. I knew I didn’t want to be in the business of just helping people buy more stuff."

"I wanted to work, to be successful, but also to give back and do some good at the same time, he explains to ten daily.”

Unsure of how to make that dream a reality Afdhel travelled the world looking for answers and also inspiration. He visited several far-flung locations including Australia and New Zealand (the other side of the world for him), where he spoke to entrepreneurs and business folk who were making serious money with a focus on giving back.

It wasn't too long before he found what he had been looking for -- the idea for a business that utilised his skills while doing good at the same time.

He returned to London and launched Conspiracy of Love -- a marketing agency that helps other businesses succeed in their given field, while also giving back to the community. If you run a company and have a social conscience, you might like to check it out.

But what if you don’t? What if you’re a regular person, leading a regular life … but still yearn to be a force for good? What if you're a regular employee without huge assets to tap, or even a great deal of time?

Afdhel is adamant that you too can make a difference.

“Everybody can do a little bit of good no matter who they are,” he says.

“We can all reach out to people … we can all say hello, give people a smile. We can help people feel connected to something … that doesn’t cost a penny.”

Indeed, there are plenty of ways to give back that don’t involve finances, says Afdhel. Nor do they require huge chunks of time.

Afdhel with Tom's Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie. Tom's has a serious social commitment and revolves around giving back. Image: Afdhel Aziz.

Looking people in the eye and offering up a genuine smile is the perfect example, he says.

"A smile might mean very little to you,” says Afdhel. "But it could mean everything to the person at the receiving end of it.”

He recommends we teach our kids this philosophy too. After all, charity starts at home and all that.

Start small and teach kids how to give to others by having them donate the toys they no longer want or need, suggests Afdhel. And encourage them to be kind -- always.

Take them on marches, explain world events to them and help them to see that all people, no matter where they come from, what they look like or what they believe in are of equal importance.

Baby steps sure. But baby steps that will eventually add up and in doing so, create major change.

Easy Ways To Do Good

Spring for Coffee

Next time you're at the coffee shop pay for an extra cup. Your barista can then choose a customer who will receive a free coffee. Small yes, but meaningful all the same.

Top up a Meter

See a parking meter that's close to expiring? Add a few dollars so that the car owner avoids a fine. You can also leave a note explaining why you topped up the meter and suggest that he or she does the same.

Offer an Invite

Research shows that the elderly are often lonely with scientists at the University of Cologne finding that peak social isolation occurs at the age of 80. If you have an older neighbour or even spot an older person out and about, strike up a conversation.

Afdhel Aziz is the co-author of the book Good Is The New Cool. You can learn more about the book here. And if you have tips and tricks on giving back, head to our ten daily Facebook page and let us know.

Afdhel Aziz's 'Good is the New Cool' is available now.