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Dealing with bureaucracy

February 7, 2021

There’s a beautiful lesson from Stoicism about traffic jams that applies to entrepreneurship and the frustration people feel towards bureaucracy.

Suppose while commuting to work, you’re suddenly stuck in a traffic jam, and you become annoyed. In that case, your expectations might’ve been set too high.

While you expected a ride without any traffic, the reality turned out completely different. The experience didn’t match the expectations. And this is annoying.

While you’re mad at the reality, the reality is not the problem. Had you expected the traffic in the first place, you wouldn’t be so frustrated.

Our imagination likes to simplify things and see things more perfect than they are. When amateurs are asked to draw an eye from imagination, they draw it more symmetrical than it is.

This applies to entrepreneurship too.

No matter how hard you don’t like to, if you own a business, you will have to spend some time and money on dealing with bureaucracy. No matter how much you dislike it, you will have to pay taxes and fees and see almost no return on investment.

There’s a media scandal around the “chamber of Commerce” currently going on in Croatia. Every (small) company pays a $100 a year fee for the membership in the chamber, which is obligatory. There’s media coverage around that going on for a week at this point.

The lost productivity due to frustration caused by reading and hearing news around that amounts to a higher amount than $100 a year per company.

Sure, life would be easier if we didn’t have that fee each year. But, we have it pretty good as citizens of Croatia as it is.

While you can’t escape bureaucracy anywhere you go, you certainly can visit places that don’t have some things that we take for granted.

This is a topic for another article, but let me just list some of the things we take for granted in Croatia. High-quality tap water (2.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water), low crime and pollution, beautiful nature (seaside especially) and places to go.

We think our bureaucracy and the tax system is the worst. When in reality, most people haven’t experienced other bureaucracies and tax systems, so they have nothing to compare it to.

John Stuart Mill observed that the man who despairs when others hope is admired by many as a sage. It’s fashionable to rant in Croatia, even though we have it pretty good.

Adding a dose of reality to expectations when having a company is helpful. Combine this with not consuming the news, and much of felt frustration can be eliminated.

@shime_sh Hrvoje Šimić
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