Get Rich without Bureaucracy

If you want to escape The Prison Camp, there are 2 things you need to know about bureaucracy.

Firstly, sometimes you just have to follow the rules. Some things are non-negotiable for us.

This is Lesson 1 and most of us learn this at school.

For example, when you apply for a passport, you need to follow the procedure laid out to the letter. Sure you can rail against this…but good luck getting the government to flex The System for your benefit!

Form-filling can be a barrier to getting your finances in order. In my financial coaching, I often speak to people that have got bogged down by too much conflicting information and too many forms.

Often people are nervous about opening an investment account or transferring an old pension to simplify their finances, reduce paperwork and admin hassle.  After the emotional barriers have been overcome, forms must be filled in!

In the early part of my career in corporate finance, I spent a lot of time doing things that required a painstaking amount of accuracy and compliance. Things like drafting a prospectus that needed to be verified by lawyers and approved by the stock exchange. Things like building a financial model that would only balance if you got every single calculation and cell reference correctly coded.

This was like Boot Camp.  It’s like having to do press ups in the mud; it’s character building and provides foundational training…even when the purpose of it seems unclear.  Some things have to be gone through in order to move on to the next phase in life.

The problem is that many (most?) people learn lesson 1 first and they learn it TOO WELL. 

Lesson 1 will only take you so far in life. Obedience and compliance can be a trap that keeps you underpaid in a job you don’t really like.

As I’ve said before, the skills to get promoted to board level or partner level in a firm are very different to the traits that get you promoted in the early years. What got you here, won’t get you there.

This applies even more so for anyone starting their own business or going self-employed. Entrepreneurship is an act of rebellion against bureaucracy and Zee Rules of The Prison Camp. To go self-employed is to bet on yourself . Every time you see a small business, someone made a brave decision.

So Lesson 2 is that you have to know when to break Zee Rules. I’m talking about weighing up pros and cons for any course of action, being flexible and thinking for yourself.

That’s because there are many policies and procedures that make no sense.  Bureaucracy is what happens when rules go wrong.  People will always game every system. They will do this whilst telling everyone else to follow the rules.

Bureaucracy hides its true priorities behind a hundred excuses. Noble causes such as Health and Safety are recruited and abused (who could be against health or safety?) by bureaucracy. The true priorities are always power and control. Give a bureaucrat a clipboard, a plastic ID pass and a pen and you create a tiny dictatorship.

Wealth building is about doing things that add value to your employer / clients / customers and you getting your fair share of the additional value created. You then invest your surplus into productive assets. Everyone wins because wealth building is a positive sum game.

This is pretty much the opposite of bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is to wealth building what gamma radiation is to cell health.

Large companies often end up slow and cumbersome because of these dynamics. Bureaucracy creeps into private companies and charities just as it creeps into government departments. This leads to pointless meetings and procedures that no longer add value.

I was reminded of this when I saw this extract from an old CIA guide on how to sabotage an organization:

Credit: David Perell Source:

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  1. Oh, wow. I think that a minimum of five colleagues of mine follow this handbook to the Letter. Now I am afraid they are spies. But most likely they are only lazy and avoiding work and change.

  2. “Bureaucracy is to wealth building what gamma radiation is to cell health.” Brilliant quote.

    I work in a medium sized organisation in the mid-tier. The bureaucracy is suffocating sometimes. But it seems like it’s par for the course once you reach a certain size. It takes good leadership to be able to trim it out.

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