8 percent. That's how many of us succeed at our New Year's resolutions. Here's another number: 10 percent. That's how many start-ups actually make it. 

Even though correlation doesn't equal causation, I can't help but wonder if these two stats are related. Assuming they are (just go with me here), we can learn a lot from the types of resolutions innovative thinkers make. Here are 5 to put at the top of your list.

1. Value practice over perfection.

The ingredients for leadership in the 21st century -- empathy, vulnerability, curiosity, courage -- can't be acquired by reading about them. (How many of your colleagues bought a book on empathy and now use it against you in every discussion? Oh, the irony.) These aren't squishy-wishy qualities. They're skills that take practice.

But soft skills aren't like levels on Candy Crush. You don't win at vulnerability. Practice them knowing you'll never perfect them, and seek feedback. As Elon Musk said, "A well-thought-out critique of whatever you're doing is as valuable as gold." If it feels a bit uncomfortable, you're doing it right.

2. Reclaim your calendar and inbox.

So many of us are ruled by our calendar and inbox. 2018 is the time to reverse those roles. Dan Mall, CEO of SuperBooked blocks off two hours each morning for meaningful work before he takes a single meeting or opens an email. You can riff on this practice by setting personal objectives and key results (OKRs) each quarter and blocking time every day for work that aligns with them.

Here's a bold idea: opt out of all recurring meetings, with a note to the organizer asking them to clarify your role here. If they can, add it back. I've done this several times and find that about a third realize I don't need to be there. Another third realizes they need a different (read: more suitable) person there. About a third genuinely do need me -- and I now have a better idea how to contribute.

3. Stop doing something.

Innovation poster-child Steve Jobs looked for passion above all else when hiring for leadership roles. The thing about passion, though, is that it's time-consuming. So this year, liberate yourself from a sticky old habit or ritual that isn't paying dividends and invest that energy in whatever you're passionate about. 

Can't think of one? I'll share mine: I stopped taking my phone to the bedroom. It was too distracting in the evening and diving into emails before even rolling out of bed was too jarring. Now I brew a morning cuppa and breathe a bit before taking my phone off its charger and taking on the day. 

4. Get out of your comfort zone.

Read a book you normally wouldn't. Tackle a tough project with someone you've never worked with before. Volunteer. All these activities put you in touch with new viewpoints and keep your brain from calcifying. Getting out of your comfort zone is a great way to build the kind of empathy that leads you to creative solutions and helps you lead teams of creative people (see item #1 above). 

Be warned though, it's addictive. Once you see the value in the discomfort of new situations, relationships, and perspectives, you get excited about searching for new opportunities. When you find yourself seeking out detractors to brainstorm with, you'll know you're hooked. 

5. Keep it weird.

Ten years ago, no one left a hotel and thought, "I'd much rather pay to stay in a stranger's house while they're away and sleep in their bed." No one got out of a taxi and thought, "It would be way better if a stranger picked me up and then we can rate each other." 

Having fun, being a bit weird, and exploring is all about finding new opportunities rather than just fixing problems. Do 1-on-1s strolling around the block. Dress up as Willy Wonka and hand out sweets. Share an epic mistake you've made with colleagues. You'll definitely learn something along the way. I just can't tell you what. 

6. (Bonus!) See your resolutions through.

If you're serious about being among the 8 percent who stick to their best-laid plans, tell your family and friends. They'll keep you honest. 

Published on: Dec 27, 2017