Six Ideas From Islam I Use To Find Success

ideas from islam

Religion is despicable. And then murders happen.

I don’t believe any “science fiction” from 2000 years ago. Astrology is science fiction. A burning bush is science fiction. Prophecies from an invisible voice is science fiction.

I don’t believe in any set of rules made thousands of years ago that dictate clothes to wear or punishments for random crimes.

And you know what: most people don’t believe in those things either.

But I also don’t like when media takes a billion people and just blindly calls them terrorists for the sake of selling as many commercials as possible.

And every academic can quote passages from every religion about violence and horror.

The Bhavagad Gita, for instance, is Krishna’s argument about why Arjuna needs to go into war with, and potentially kill, his own cousins.

Should a modern person take this seriously? Of course not!

Islam is similar. Do I listen to everything a mysterious voice said to a man in the desert over a thousand years ago? Of course not!

I don’t believe in “Star Wars” either. Why would a “force” want Luke to kill perhaps millions of people on The Death Star.

And why is nobody ever reading a book in Star Wars? Don’t they read?

But I love thinking of the idea of “surrendering to The Force” and how that idea has often helped me through dark moments.

In ANY iconic story that has withstood the test of time for thousands of years I want to figure out why that story has survived.

And, of course, how I can benefit!

This is what I take from Islam. In my worst moments, these six things have helped me.

Not in the name of any religion. But totally selfishly.


“Islam” means “surrender”.

I think it is beautiful an entire religion is named after “surrender”.

Surrender to what?

That’s already thinking too much. I am a small tiny being with a gigantic star 96 million miles away keeping me alive.

And a billion years of DNA carving me into a biological tool that could survive for 100 years, give or take, on this planet.

We are surrounded only by stories, then skin, then cells and blood and air. And 97% of the matter in the universe is a total mystery to scientists and philosophers.

Surrender allows the unknown to happen as humbly as possible. Success is when we are ok with the unknown we invite in.

Islam provides guidance about surrender in its “five pillars”: faith, prayer, fasting, charity, pilgrimage.


I don’t have faith in science fiction or miracles. My brain isn’t smart enough.

But I do have faith in myself. I have faith in my own personal practice that I do every day which consists of just four items.

Do I think everyone should have a personal practice? I do. But that is my own opinion and is not advice.

This is the personal practice I have faith in. And that if I do this practice, I can surrender to the outcome.

Every day I check the box on:

Physical health – Sleep Move Eat. Did I do the best I could on each of those.

Emotional health – Am I spending time with people I love and who love me.

Creative health – Am I creative every day. At a bare minimum, did I take out my waiter’s pad and write down ten ideas? About what? Doesn’t matter. Just write.

Spiritual health – Do I appreciate for just a moment the beauty of things around me, even when things feel they are at their worst?

[ Related: How To Be The LUCKIEST GUY ON THE PLANET in 4 Easy Steps ]


I don’t pray.

But when I pass people in the street I always think, “this person might die tomorrow” and I wish them the best. Or I think, “this could be my daughter” and I wish them the best.

This is my form of prayer.

Someone once told me the latter prayer feels fake to them. Fine. It doesn’t feel fake to me.

And it’s a way for me to get out of my own head and think about the needs and dreams and wants of others for even a moment.

Prayer is my way out of the head else I am trapped inside.

Islam suggests do “prayer” five times a day. I think it can be done all day long.


Every religion has some idea of fasting. And like all good science fiction, the truths inside the story were only realized much later.

With modern science we now know the benefits of fasting to clean out the system, keep weight in control, avoid diseases like diabetes, and avoid inflammation in various organs, including the brain.

I try to do intermittent fasting a few times a week. Meaning: A 16 hour fast so all my food for the day is consumed during just an eight hour period.

Sometimes this just means, “skip breakfast”.


I don’t believe in writing checks to big organizations where I have no idea how the money will be used. So I don’t like traditional charities.

But I do set aside money each month to give as much as I can in completely random situations: to homeless people who ask. As a ridiculously large tip, since often this is the only way that low-wage workers get paid more.

Or in other situations where I can help or do things anonymously.

In Judaism, to give anonymously is considered the highest good. In Islam, it is one of the main pillars of their religion.

For me, it’s a way to reduce my attachments and worries about money while helping someone. This helps me in the process of “surrender”.


In Islam, this means: pilgrimage to Mecca.

I will never do this.

But I try to go on a pilgrimage every day. To spend some time exploring what I love instead of just following the directions someone else tells me to do.

Every day I try to have the heart of a pilgrim. In Zen this is called “beginner’s mind”.

Arrogance is the opposite of pilgrimage.

I don’t watch the people arguing on TV about who killed who under what god’s name. All of that is BS and fiction.

“Follow the money” is how you get all the answers to those questions. This has nothing to do with “Surrender” for me.

But when I look at my own definitions of these five pillars: “faith”, “prayer”, “fasting”, “charity”, “pilgrimage”, I find these are guideposts in the direction of “surrender”.

And surrender has often been a great source of success and creativity for me.

It’s not about god. It’s not about a book. Or a history. Or a war.

It’s about how I can live today the best possible life. And the only possible way to predict a good tomorrow is if I live a good life today.

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  • matha

    One of the best from my favorite writer james altucher.

  • Brian M. Garvey

    Choosing yourself is like surrender. You finally give in to who you are. You stop
    fighting your dreams. You let go, fall for a while, drift aimlessly. Then you start to enjoy life. Choosing yourself is my religion these days, and I preach it to all the good people I meet.

  • Black Dynamite

    Take what’s useful; throw away that isn’t; add the uniqueness that is you.. James, you’re the Bruce Lee of life!

    Anyway, I often read your writings and think “Hey, that’s how I think!” I’m just glad one of us making a living out of it. :-)

    Thanks for the read.

  • Vinay Bajpai

    Hi James
    Hinduism is full of Symbolism and Gita is no exception. It may not be wise to interpret The Gita as simply a command to kill from Krishna for Arjuna. One of the interpretation for example equates Krishna to Supreme Lord, Arjuna to Human Being and all the Cousins as evil desires. Then whole of Gita educates how a human can overcome the evils..

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  • Zarathoustra

    What about Jihad ? Nothing you could take away from this lovely injunction ?

  • Julian Tanaka

    Come on James, you’re better than this clickbaity bullshit.

  • Kaighla Um Dayo

    I’ve been a fan of yours for years, and when I saw this in my news feed today, my respect for you tripled. I am a Muslim American convert and I wish more people understood this message: you can appreciate a religion and respect it’s concepts WITHOUT BELIEVING IN IT. Good on you for this brave post.

    • shmo123

      Islam is not a religion. It’s a theocratic, totalitarian cult. How anyone could “convert” to believing its lies is beyond all comprehension.

    • Rin Ishikawa

      I have been a fan of him also, quite recently though.
      Yes, I can say the same also, that my respect for him was boosted by this article.

      James, you’re my favorite writer ever since.

    • José Antonio Rivera-Nevarez

      Probably, your interlocutor has not read the Kur’an, as I have all the way to its completion in ca a year. There is nothing of value Muhammad brought to humanity. There is no compassion, no matter how many times you refer to him as the “compassionate”. If there are any “good muslims”, they follow unknowingly Jesus Christ teachings and probably have not read the Kur’an, where the depravities of Muhammad, a very “unperfect” man, are well documented: pedophilia, slave woman rape, misoginy, honor killing, child brides, assasination for apostasy, stoning to death for adultery and for being homosexual, etc. Utterly perverse death cult.

  • Rondo

    Educate yourself read Mark Durie’s book

    “The Third Choice”

  • Rondo

    If you put a young God-fearing Muslim in a room

    with an Islamic radical and an Islamic moderate, both trying

    to win over the young person’s soul, the radical would

    win again and again. It is because the canon –

    hadiths, sira and Koran – are massively stacked in

    favor of the radical position. Yes, there are violent

    passages in the Bible too, but it is an uphill battle to

    build a violent theology based on them. With the Koran,

    building a violent theology is like rolling balls down a

    hill. It is a huge uphill struggle building a

    “moderate” Islamic theology on the basis of the

    Islamic canon alone.

  • Rondo
  • Rondo

    James your hero Garry Kasparov would lose respect for you after this post.

  • It’s about how I can live today the best possible life. And the only possible way to predict a good tomorrow is if I live a good life today.

    What a great way to end the article. So much great, positive energy. As we improve, achieve, and create value in our own lives we’re able to create that much morevalue for others. It’s the Alpha mindset: Thanks for the interesting read.

  • José Antonio Rivera-Nevarez

    Islam’s violent history is well documented and the perversions of Islamic law truly evil. This desert caravan raider and its totalitarian system did not add anything of spiritual value to humanity that surpasses the message of Jesus Christ, God’s true messenger. Quiet the contrary, islam fosters arrogance and hate for the nonbeliever, has killed millions worldwide for the last 1400 years, and it certainly bents toward injustice. It lacks compassion and is just another totalitarian system in disguise. Read the Kur’an or see the daily decapitations in Saudi Arabia, where this evil is in full force, and therein you will find that there is nothing to support your 6 fallacies about this satanic cult. Islam will never be allowed to dominate, in spite of ignorants misrepresenting what it truly is.

    • Stephane Aderca

      “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34

      “And kill them wherever you overtake them, and expel them from where they had expelled you… If they fight you, then kill them. Such is the retribution of the disbelievers.” – Quran 2:193

      “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” – John 13:34

      “O you who believe! Do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies; some of them are allies of one another. Whoever of you allies himself with them is one of them. God does not guide the wrongdoing people.” – Quran 5:51

      “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” – John 8:7

      “The punishment for those who fight God and His messenger, and strive to spread corruption on earth, is that they be killed, or crucified, or have their hands and feet cut off on opposite sides, or be banished from the land. That is to disgrace them in this life; and in the Hereafter they will have a terrible punishment.” – Quran 5:33

      • José Antonio Rivera-Nevarez

        Excellent supporting quotes! Thanks Stephan.

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  • pacman

    Sometimes you’re an idiot.

  • Raif Shareef

    Hats off, James,

    When a non-Muslim gives away a such sweet light and put things in perspective. Thank for the much needed understanding the world craves. Shows how much The Book proves itself to be worthy and beyond.


  • Muhammad S Maromi

    May God guide you

  • Kayvee

    In Islam too, giving charity in secret or anonymously is considered way better. Why? because it makes sure your ego doesnt come into play. When you give anonymously, you make sure that you are not doing it to be seen or praised by others, you are doing it just because its the right thing to do, you are doing it for God’s sake.

  • Jen Boudreau

    “take what you like and leave the rest”. Look for the good in all things, even if you don’t agree with everything. There is always something to be learned and help you grow.
    This is a wonderful article!

  • J Copperhead

    James, thank you. Excellent post. Aside from the wisdom and “personal” view in which you are not forcing anybody to prescribe to, you’ve given a few Hateful souls to vent their Islamophobic emotions. Had they simply stuck to your thesis and to the 6 points/principles in your advice, they would’ve spared us their uncalled venom. My question to them if the word Islam was removed and the “Islamic” terms were rephrased to your explanation of them, would they still fight against them?
    I doubt it! Islam word triggered their “trigger happy” hate nerve and they exploded attacking you. I respect you more because as you can see, you went courageously against the demagog… and won.

  • Saif

    I was profoundly touched by this post by James Althucher. He truly understands the core values and principles of Islam and applies it in his own life. This world would be a much better place if we could apply this approach and learn from different religions instead of fighting each other

  • Highly cool that you know the five pillars.

    And you know what, you don’t need to qualify your stance that you dont believe in mysterious technologies from 2000 years ago…

    I hear this advice on writing that sometimes deleting the first paragraph or two makes the writing more direct. Even crispier. This article could use that advice. ;)

    May God bless you and yours, James. Peace!

  • Egi777

    Thanks for your cover both side perspective due to crucial angle recently on Islam.

    We may say, there’s a human behind of any kind of religions right?

    There’s pro’s n cons among ours. For instance, In my country, the most largest Islamic people, we also living peacefully among hundreds tribes and variety of local languange.

    FYI, ISIS is not Islam. It’s just one of propaganda tools, in order to complete their domination to the rest of world.

    Have a lil flashback, since Al Qaeda officially turned down – dismissed, another product came up as ‘different’ label.

    Furhermore, the media contains many biasses to reshape our logical thinking – awareness.

    Thanks James.

  • Rondo

    How’s that religion of peace working for you James?

  • I’m Muslim but I didn’t fast this year because I was breastfeeding. I really loved this post because it came from a non-muslim and it totally reinvigorated why I am a muslim and I love that it came from someone not in the religion – fresh perspective and all that. I was motivated to do a response post along the same lines but applying to my emotional eating blog. If anyone’s interested:

  • shuchi

    Very nicely written and conveyed, i tried all the ideas at the time of unrest in my life and wrote this
    Happy Eid!

  • userbronco

    islamists want everyone else to surrender to THEM.
    submit or die is their main thing

    they are the only major religion that still practices slavery, beheadings, executes homos etc. oh, yeah and they are terrorists too.
    funny you dont see Buddhists, or Christians blowing up airplanes and running over innocent people with trucks.

    radical muslums commit terrorism, moderate muslums support and cheer them on.