Our culture has shifted away from viewing work as the main focus of people’s lives. Part of the cause is economic: most people no longer need to work hard in order not to starve to death on the streets. Furthermore, the differences between income levels are far less important: your friend might have $1 or $1 million in the bank without much noticeable difference in lifestyle, whereas it used to mean the difference between a poor house or a mansion. Another aspect of it is philosophical: we have lost the understanding that markets are responsible for civilization, and so place far less value in productive work.
Career advice for the young: your job should be your primary focus in life. This is not to dismiss the value of family, friends, etc, but as far goal pursuit is concerned, you need to prioritize your career. I see young people who come in the morning tired from video games, partying, reading books, hobbies, etc. You guys need to think hard about your life and your time management. Schedule your social life, put time limits on games, sip your liquor, whatever it takes.
Cut out the non-essential crap in your life so you can come in and perform like a rockstar every morning. Playtime is over — you’re not a kid anymore and need to start adulting ASAP. If you can’t get sufficiently motivated about your job to do that, quit now and find something that drives you to perform your best. Trust me – it will be worth it.
When I give this advice, people inevitably complain that by stressing the importance of work, I dismiss the value of family. Nevermind that young people today don’t place much value in family either – the kind of diversions I mentioned have little to do with forming meaningful relationships. In one aspect, however, I think I value family more than most of my critics. I used to dismiss stay at home moms (or dads) as incomplete human beings who failed to reach their potential. Over time, however, I saw the value of attachment parenting – close physical and emotional contact between parent and child is very important. Furthermore, the financial advantage of two working spouses is less than is often assumed and misses out on major non-material costs. So I’m not so “anti-family” after all.
Finally, making your career your primary purpose in life does not mean working more hours. Not only is overwork counterproductive, but it is often the excuse to avoid taking the few, uncomfortable steps needed to actually make progress in life. A good work-life balance doesn’t mean arbitrarily delimiting work/non-work hours. It means evaluating what habits and activities in your work and personal life are worthwhile investments and which ones are not, and delegating time accordingly.