The Power of A Cause

February 24th, 2017

We all have a sense of purpose. It comes in many shapes and sizes, through the pursuit of many different passions and expressions.

Where people divide is based upon their intentions and motives.

To understand you as a person, these are the two questions that define you:

What are your intentions?

What are your motives?

The answers may seem trivial at first glance, however I now ask that you replace what with why.

For instance, if you were to tell me you intend to get a well-paying job, I would then ask you why you are motivated to do so. You may then respond in an obvious tone that you wish to make money, and that is your motivation. Another answer may be that you are motivated to find a good job because it’ll make your parents proud, or it’ll prove to your friends that you can achieve such a job. This then comes down to a dispute between beneficiaries and benefactors.

I hope you can begin to see where this is going. We often create intentions and motives driven by our materialistic views on society or by other people’s expectations for us. In doing so we miss the purpose of personal intention and motivation that will lead us to our goals.

I’ve struggled with this concept for years, and I know for certain I do not stand alone on this conversation. As it always has and always will, society resists change, namely for two reasons:

We adopt an understanding of social norms, or regularities that promote conformation. This is the classic “if he/she does this, I should do this too.” By following this thought process, we close many doors because we begin to limit ourselves to what others perceive as a good idea. We shut off creativity and imagination because what we see in the world is what we get.  We may believe our perception is wrong, or not applicable if it does not fit in the linear trend.

We may find that people see change as a threat to their own lifestyle. They may be comfortable with the way things are, or fearful of change because they are unable to find a unique form of expression for themselves. Nonetheless we mustn’t engage people who seek to change us for their own benefit. After all they don’t know you better than you do, unless you follow them instead of leading yourself.

Okay Matt, how do I define my own intentions and motives?   

As a recent college graduate, I sympathize with those who enter the “real world” without a clue of what’s in store for them. Many of us forget that five years from now our perspective and priorities will be far different then they are now. So why is now important? This where your intentions and motives play a key role. Where you ­intend­ ­to be is easy to define, but your motives will be the vehicle to take you there. The difficulty with motivation is that it comes and goes sporadically if not correctly understood. I like to call this the roller coaster effect. Consider your intentions the vehicle, and the motives the fuel you need to get from Point A to Point B. If you cannot find enough fuel, you will not make it to your destination, no matter how strongly you intend to do so.

I would like to explain how you can find enough fuel through two personal experiences.

I graduated from Syracuse University in December of 2016, a semester later than anticipated, because I took a leave of absence for 6 months to work as a COOP at Johnson & Johnson in Skillman, New Jersey. This job gave me a taste of the working world, and the variety of lifestyles that people adopt. Some are all work oriented, showing up before they’re expected and leaving far after everyone else. Then there are those who focus on other aspects of their life outside of work, i.e. family, friends, social gatherings, exercise, etc. Working this COOP convinced me that I was not the 9-5 five-day work week type. I couldn’t understand how this societal norm had embedded itself into the American lifestyle. From my understanding the industrial era was the start of long work days, with the Fair Labor Standards Act being adopted in 1938 to put the maximum work week at 40 hours not including overtime. Since then there has been little change in our work norms, and major changes in lifestyle and social aspects of our lives. This leads to an imbalance in how we wish to live versus how we are told to. Enter the millennial connotation of self-entitlement, self-absorbency, self-everything; or so you’d think. I’m not one to challenge the way life has been in the past, with the traditional block style work week. There is nothing wrong with that, and I don’t wish to work any less then the next person. I am focused on finding a way to optimize my work output and enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle. I know this sounds all too familiar to some of you but bear with me, there is a point. Some people may thrive on the 9-5, I however find spurts of productivity throughout certain times of the day. I believe technology is bringing us into a world that offers capabilities and advantages that were not available in the past, and it is simply a matter of time until we begin to accept these changes. Remember what I said earlier about society resisting change? Oh yeah. End of story.

After my COOP I returned to Syracuse to finish my last year of undergrad studies. I had a completely different perspective after this working experience. I realized that I needed to discover my intentions and fuel my motives before I started working, otherwise I’d surely burn out. Not long after my return to school, I was contacted by Teach For America. For those unfamiliar, TFA is a nonprofit organization that recruits leadership driven individuals for teaching positions in low income communities throughout the United States. They are addressing a major problem: the public education system. A recruiter from TFA called me and spoke about their mission, I applied to join the TFA Corps and was accepted in April of 2016. I thought you studied to become an engineer, why would you go into teaching? I accepted this job not because of the salary, but because of the cause. Yes, I graduated with a Bachelors of Science studying Biomedical Engineering. Most of my classmates have gone on to work in consulting firms, research, or other areas typically explored by engineering post grads. I had something else in mind, whether it be rash decision making or instinctive thinking I decided not to purse one of those options. There’s nothing wrong with them, in fact STEM is a hot area in the job market as of late. These people will go on to do amazing things, and I am excited to see it all play out. I chose education for a few reasons. First, I want to understand the concept of learning from the teaching side. Learning how to instruct and educate people is a powerful tool. From what I’ve experienced so far, the saying “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches” is the farthest thing from the truth. Try teaching a class at any level and see for yourself, I dare you.  Secondly, there is a high need for teachers to step into the realm of education, to provide assurance that the next generation receives equal opportunity for an education that will set them up for success. The efforts of “he who cannot” then becomes “he who can provide a future to those in need of it.” I mean who doesn’t find motivation by hearing that. There you go, my intentions are to teach, and my motivation is based on a worthy cause. I begin training for TFA in June of 2017.

So Matt, what do you intend to do between December and June? 

It’s funny you ask; this sets up my second example of how a cause can fuel motivation. In July of 2016 I began brainstorming about what I could do with six months of time. Maybe I’d get a job and save up some money, possibly work as an intern somewhere, etc. Those are two great options right there, but it wasn’t going to cut it for me. I had been working three jobs over the Summer that would eventually flow into my last semester at Syracuse, and I was ready for something new. So naturally, the next thought that comes to mind is tour biking across the United States, right? If you’re a reasonable person probably not, and I certainly have been called unreasonable on numerous occasions. I knew I wanted to bike across the United States, and the rest was a big question mark. I began reaching out to people who had done similar trips. I’ve found there is a major network of people who have rode cross country, and with that a wealth of knowledge was provided to me because I never said no to a contact suggestion. You’d be amazed how far you can get by simply striking up a conversation. You just need to put in the effort to talk to people, and the rest works out on its own. Over time I collected many great ideas, and ultimately decided I would do this trip to spread awareness for Parkinson’s disease. Why PD? My uncle Mark has been suffering from the disease for nearly 17 years now. My grandfather passed away from pneumonia in 2002, however he had progressed PD when he passed away. PD limited his abilities for years prior to his passing, so I grew up knowing him with these limitations. His brother Joe now lives in Florida, and in his eighties, has been diagnosed with PD. Many people believe this disease only effects the elderly, and this is not true at all! People are diagnosed as early as their twenties sometimes. There is a lot people need to learn about PD and what it takes to find a cure, which is why I’ve made it my objective to spread awareness while I ride cross country. But anyways, I have been preparing for this trip for almost seven months now. There has never been a time where I have felt satisfied with the amount of work I’ve done. Coming from a person who used to always sleep in, and going to bed was the easiest part of the day, those roles have now switched around. I’m up every day at 8:00 by the latest, and going to bed is the most challenging part of my day because my mind seems to provide ideas and next steps as I lie patiently in bed waiting to fall asleep, anxious to start the next day. Needless to say, I’ve found my 9-5.

And yes, here’s my disclaimer, I am working from home and I have six months off with little to no other commitments. Anyone could do this with the time I have, but would they? So I now ask you: What would you intend to do with six months of free time? But I’ll even do you one better: How will you find motivation in your daily life to pursue good intentions. Do this by finding a worthy cause. Work for the betterment of others, and the payment you’ll find will always be far greater than any paycheck can offer you. We all need to pay the bills I understand that, but the rest is up to you to decide. You can choose a life ruled by materialistic values and societies opinion, or you can choose to find a worthy cause that will lead you to a promising life of fulfillment. And you can mix work with pleasure, don’t ever let someone tell you that’s not possible, otherwise you’re following rather than leading, and that’s no way to live. You can choose to take life by the reigns, or wear the reigns and let life direct you. I’ll leave those intentions for you to decide.

Please visit my website at to learn more about my upcoming journey. I leave on February 27th from Jacksonville Florida and head westward towards California. All are welcome to join, or support Rdie4Parkinsons along the way. Please reach out with any questions of comments.

Thanks for listening, I hope this helps.

-Matt Barbaccia

One thought on “The Power of A Cause

  1. Thanks so much for sharing these heartfelt thoughts. It makes your journey ahead so much more meaningful to those of us following you!
    Grandpa is certainly looking down on you!
    Prayers and wishes for a safe and fulfilling trip!
    Love, Aunt Diane


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