By Brian Lucas
John Vernotica is a natural agilist who makes setting up a 900 person event as simple as the word “mangia”. In a little over a year, he has grown the mangia events that he hosts from a handful of friends to a loyal following that is bordering on a thousand plus. A well respected former police detective who now works for the district attorney’s office; JohnnyV (as he is affectionately known to his multitude of friends) organizes his many mangia events in his spare time and he makes it all look easy. You can follow his truly marvelous mangia events on Facebook.
It has been my privilege to be invited to several mangia events that John and his eminently gracious and charming wife Kathy have run. It is breathtaking to observe him in action. His absolute attention to detail, incredible concern for his guest’s enjoyment and boundless effervescence as a host are truly awesome to behold.
I was quite honored when he and his lovely wife Kathy extended their boundless “old world” cordiality to me once again and consented to be interviewed for my series interview with a natural agilist. To be in their presence is to be accepted into the unparalleled hospitality of a Italian family where no guest leaves hungry, but is filled with the wondrous warmth that enables you to leave life’s troubles a distant memory. They have both become a very important part of many people’s lives.
John is a natural organizational genius in that he can handle many tasks at the same time. He also doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word procrastinate; another common trait I am finding among natural agilists. Like all good agilists, John started small. Little over a year ago he was introduced to Facebook and began to find old friends from his neighborhood. Next, he set up a dinner with them. They enjoyed the food, the reminiscence of old times and the congeniality of sharing new life experiences so much they decided to do it on a regular basis. Well next time a few more came. Then John decided since enough people were coming; he would call the restaurant and obtain a special menu deal. He found yet another hidden talent; this time for negotiating. This worked out so well; John decided to add entertainment. One year later the ranks of his mangia followers is topping 1,000. John has in fact an army of followers and now restaurants and other entertainment providers are beginning to contact him.
How does John make this all happen in his spare time? Well, John’s first secret is that he acts and he acts immediately. He doesn’t create an enormous plan. He starts somewhere and maybe it’s not always in the beginning, but he starts and gets the ball rolling. This always generates additional ideas. Furthermore, he has this phenomenal ability to always keep a task running in the back of his mind. Whenever something occurs that spawns a new idea he immediately sees that possibility and then acts on it. By following the iterative process, John builds quite sophisticated events, with tremendous success, one step at a time. Because he is constantly chipping away at his planning, negotiating, organizing and managing; he makes it look easy. But it is not!
Others have tried to duplicate John’s success, but have failed. It is true that part of the success of mangia is due to John and Kathy’s unsurpassed open and giving personalities; though the real secret is the simple “ACT” rules he follows:
- Act immediately on your idea if only in a small way
- Constantly solicit feedback from the targets of your actions
- Think about how to make it better
If you are looking for a warm and pleasant way to spend an evening out dining, you can’t go wrong attending one of John Vernotica’s mangia events. While you are there enjoying the meal the atmosphere and basking in the warmth of John and Kathy’s many mangia friends; watch John at work. You just might learn something about being agile! Remember till next time – keep agile and as John would say mangia my friends.
This is a prime example of natural business agility, in its purest form. You have an amazing ability to spot this talent, and to capture it for your blog readers in a very easily understandable fashion. I have had the privilege to attend one of John’s mangia events. His planning is flawless, and his execution even better. If your readers really want to be in awe, mention to them that John does this without making a dime for himself. That’s right… He does it for fun and personal sasatisfaction.
Hey great job by mister Lucas once again
Yes Dave, John’s planning ability is amazing since he does it so quickly and iteratively. He has a speed of action and iterative refinement level that would make many envious. I really don’t think that the attendees of the mangia events really appreciate the amount of expertise and proficiency he possesses and employs in their behalf. They certainly appreciate him though and love the events.
Mangia is a “one of a kind” group that brings people together. It started with people from the old neighborhood of Newark and has branched out to people from all walks of life in different states. Kathy and John have done an amazing job bringing people together. Next should be a Mangia reality show! Look out BRAVO.
Forgive me, but a reality show is a curse I would not wish on these marvelous mangia events or these two wonderful people.
John puts these events together & doesn’t take a red cent for himself. Watching his face light up with a big smile when we all get together at different events, is his pay.
While most people know each other, the group is happy to welcome new people (myself & my wife) that are interested in Mangia-ing & sometimes dancing the afternoon or night away. Most of the members are from Newark, but some of us never lived there or moved out an early age & have mutual friends from Newark or places from the past. We all share a common bond, having a good time & making new friends.
Another testament to John’s agile ability is the frequency that the events are held. They’re not held only once every few months. John holds a Mangia event at least once a week, and sometimes there are multiple events in a single week. This speaks to John’s consistency and success rate in handling his many other priorities while ensuring the Mangia events are always memorable and perfectly executed.
This is a great example of applying agile methodologies outside of the standard business environment. Thanks, Brian!
Yes that is exactly the point of the interviews with a natural agilist series. I am glad you are reinforcing that. This interview was not about John being a great guy though he is that without a doubt. Its about natural abilities that people have and don’t recognize that are particularly suited for the business and sociological era we now live in. So far I have been very fortunate to have such great interview subjects. More are planned!
Interesting point you are making here Brian in a different way, “Know thyself!”
Brian are you going to post the other interviews? This is a fascinating series! Obviously Dave and Wayne know John. Are all these people known to you? I think it would be interesting to post and article about common traits of Natural Agilists. What do you think?
Brian you must have some Italian blood in you or been adopted into an Italian family to understand and appreciate the values that you describe here with such feeling. Nothing is better than getting together with good friends over a good meal. It is what keeps our families strong and makes us rich in what is most important in life. Mangia my friend, Giuseppe
As usual, another impressive blog Brian! It is full of great information in such a sweet and simple way. As someone who tends to procrastinate, I’ve learned a lot from this blog and the way John thinks and plans. Especially the ACT rule. These Mangia events sound awesome! Thanks, Brian!
A great lesson to learn Jessica!
Another great job, Brian!
John’s ability to sucessfully multi-task in both his planning-stages as well as the execution stage, or the fantastic multi-layered social event that IS Mangia, simply shows that John’s ability to be agile are inherent to him. He is a truely gifted agilist for sure.
Brian I am really growing to admire and respect your blog. I am not a big blog reader there are too many most of them are not worthwhile. I am impressed at how you identified the characteristics of John’s that make him agile and the ACT process you describe is a super simple yet powerful philosophy. It makes me want to go to one of these Mangia events. I looked online, are they only in New Jersey? I noticed that Wayne and Dave both work at hospitals in PA which is a little closer for me.
Fran John does do events in PA just keep watch on his Facebook page. He posts all the time and has become quite the posting demon.
This is the first time I have posted a comment here. I don’t often post comments anywhere; to be honest I am just not comfortable. I felt I finally had to because I was enjoying your blog so much. I needed to contribute. Brian, this interview was made with such obvious sensitivity to John and Kathy. It was so complementary to them. I could not remain silent.
They are obviously special people. It sounds like they might be good friends of yours. however, you don’t talk about how long you have known them. But, it takes a really special person, who has an uncommon understanding of people and empathy, to write about someone as you have of them. You are that very special person.
John is not a CEO of a big company. I am guessing he is also not a wealthy country club type. He is not someone who can probably benefit your career. Yet you have put him and his wife Kathy on a pedestal built of the best qualities a person can have. The warmth, hospitality and concern for a guest, that can only come from people who happily let others into their family.
I have noticed that you always write with great understanding. You also write very well and are very entertaining to read. You never brag in your writing though you are clearly a very intelligent person. Now I am seeing that you are a very empathetic person as well.
I hope John and Kathy realize what you have done. You have immortalized them in writing, and in a way brought the Mangia family experience to your all your reader’s present and future many of whom will probably never attend a Mangia event.
Elizabeth – every once in a while, a kind reader such as yourself looks beyond the surface to the deeper meanings of what I write and why I write. There are no words that can adequately express the gratitude I feel for your words or understanding. May you enjoy all that is good in this life and inherit the rewards earned by a gentle soul in the hereafter. -Brian
This interview, simple in its nature, wrought with an appreciation of what is best in humanity; shows the many dimensions Mr. Lucas has. On the surface, it is a straightforward human interest story, beautifully crafted. As such, it has touched a number of people. I am sure that Elizabeth’s poignant comment spoke for many.
Coming from a large Italian family in an Italian neighborhood, I understand the feelings of family and friends and food that John and Kathy embody. It was and still it in some ways, the heart and soul of our society. Brian has captured this feeling quite eloquently in this interview. His sincerity rings perfectly true. I find no hint of false praise for the Vernotica family or the Mangia events.
I don’t know Mr. Lucas personally, and that is my loss. He seems to me to be the kind of person, who looks to find the truth in any situation and what is good in people. I hope John and Kathy appreciate and realize what Brian has done to immortalize them here and bring their message of the value of friendship and hospitality to an international stage.
Beyond that, Brian has identified a critical aspect of being agile and that is to act and not procrastinate. His 3 ACT rules are beautifully simple and yet so important. Often times in business, we are stuck in an analysis paralysis and lose sight of the need to ACT. I have printed out Brian’s ACT rules and they will remain on my desk as a reminder of the need to be agile. So to Brian and John and Kathy I say in sincere tribute, Mangia!
With Deepest Respect,
At the next Mangia event, if I can ever get away to another one, I promise to lift up my glass and toast you with the deepest respect. Thank you so much for your words of warmth and praise. They encourage me to keep posting.
The concept of interviewing natural agilists is the masterstroke of a brilliant mind. To paint such a vivid picture of three so different people in the interviews so far takes a great deal of talent. I am glad that Mr. Lucas has changed the format for this interview. It provides a considerable amount of insight into his thinking and nature. Both Mr. Francavilla and Mr. Bruch are executives in large organizations. They are required to be good communicators. Their interviews could be reported verbatim when conducted by a skillful interviewer like Mr. Lucas. However, Mr. Vernotica and his wife Kathy are not in those types of positions. I expect that the interview took longer. Rather than cut out select sections of dialog and manufacture the interview, Mr. Lucas choose the route of exposition. I believe it is because he has a very scrupulous, ethical nature and never misrepresents anything intentionally. That morality is a rare commodity today. The picture of the Vernoticas he paints is so full of warmth it borders on effusive. Yet this picture has genuinely touched a number of hearts, as can be seen in the nature of the comments. Mr. Lucas also derives the most basic set of rules from Mr. Vernotica’s success and spells them out in a memorably explicit fashion with his ACT mnemonic. Mr. Lucas proves with this post again that he does indeed have a very agile mind and a facile one as well.
Wow! What publicity for the Mangias. You should be a lifelong honored guest! Do you speak at these events? -Jack
I have met many wonderful people and made friends at Mangia events. I have also had some very interesting conversations. There are no speakers of any kind at Mangia events that I know of, however I did sing Funiculì, Funiculà at a Mangia event held in the Prima Vera in New Jersey. Does that count?
Say what does it take to get interviewed by Brian Lucas? This was so nice and heartwarming I want to participate! You changed the format here so I guess it was a long interview over dinner maybe. I respect how you treat Kathy and John here with such reverence. Have you known them long? I would like to go to a Mangia dinner, but it would be a heck of a long trip. Maybe we will start our own here. I will just have to ACT on it. See I learned a lesson!
Perle John Vernotica’s Mangia dinners are on Facebook. To get interviewed you need to be a natural agilist and I need to be able to verify that you are one through an arcane process of research and pre-interview interviews. I have known the Vernotica’s for over a year now. By all means start your own Mangias John would be proud!
I am surprised that more mangia people have not commented. The interview is so positive and beautifully written I would have thought more would have expressed their support of John and Kathy. Elizabeth’s comment was so touching. Brian you have such a way with words that you are reaching beyond our surface that has been so desensitized by media bombardment and connecting with the needs of people’s souls. That is a rare gift. -Haley
Thank you Haley! I was very touched by Elizabeth’s comment. It took a special courage for her to move from a lurker to a commenter. Blogging has been a wonderful experience I have met so many new people and am much encouraged by everyone’s responses.
I saw that Wayne and Dave commented here so they both must be mangia goers. Brian you must also attend these mangia events. I have to get to one of these. I honestly think Elizabeth’s comment speaks for many. I know I have never commented on a blog before in my life. Yours inspired me to do so. Thank you.
Bonnie go with a group of friends John often makes great hotel deals as part of the package. Or start you own Mangias. I have seen both Wayne and Dave at Mangia events.
Brian you have done such a beautiful job in describing the warmth Kathy and John have shown you and many others, I am almost moved to tears. They must be very, very special people to have gained so much respectful praise from someone like you. I am sure that this post will endear them to many people throughout the borderless world of the internet. It will continue to do so every time someone reads this post and finds a bit of humanity and hope, just as Elizabeth has in her touching comment. You have immortalized them both in a very real way, that is something few of us are lucky enough to experience in our lives.
Beautifully put Leigh! The immortality of this life is that we can live on in the good thoughts of others long after we have passed out of this existence if we give of ourselves while we are here.
Having vented with a comment in your post “My First Agile Project”, I felt I really had to say something positive. Your blog spans such a range of agile I am astounded. This interview which is not even remotely connected to information systems is a surprisingly good example of agile thinking as you put it. I am surprise that neither John Vernotica nor his wife Kathy have posted a comment here though. I noted that both Dave Francavilla and Wayne Bruch who you interviewed previously are apparently now regular readers of your blog and comment. Still perhaps that is understandable since they are both in business and the Mangia events are social gatherings. I am also surprised that more of the Mangia Facebook followers have not posted here in support of John and Kathy. Maybe the link was not posted on the Mangia Facebook page; I’ll have to check on that myself. Still all said this is a great post and I would love to go to a Mangia event sometime.
Thank you Sandra! Try and get to an event if you can!
John and Kathy lets here from you here!
I have to join Sandra, Haley and Leigh, where are the comments from Kathy and John and the rest of the Mangia people. I thought maybe they were not social media users, but I looked on John’s Facebook page and he posts often even numerous times a day. Curious. Maybe Kathy and John are a bit shy because Brian painted such an ideal picture. Still it would be nice to hear from them.
This is part of my continued campaign to get those interviewed to post comments on their interviews. Kathy and John we are waiting to hear from you. As Peter noted you post on Facebook why not here? Sharing your perspective is important to help encourage others to be agile and create their own Mangia’s or whatever else their dreams are that they are procrastinating on.
I am flattered by all the positive comments made about My family. We are people that truly live and love life. I enjoy being the catalyst that brings people together to do so. Mangia is much more then food and drink. It is life. My vision is to Keep the flame burning and to continue to bring people together both new and old.
Hey everybody John Vernotica finally commenting drives me to comment after enjoying this post and Brian’s blog in general. It is good to hear that you enjoy what you and your family enjoy what you are doing so much. As the saying goes if you love what you are doing it is not work. Since as your mangia followers state you are not getting paid for this that is a good thing. One thing though that surprises me a bit is that you did not mention your interview experience with Brian at all. Dave F. commented that he really seemed to enjoy the interview and thought Brian was a great interviewer. I would be interested to hear your perspective. How you met Brian. What made you agree to be interviewed by him. What you think of him. Brian is far too mysterious and enquiring minds want to know! –T.Baer
Tandy the blog really isn’t about me its about being agile. I appreciate your interest though very much.
Hi John I looked up on your Facebook for the Mangia events. Does Brian attend these regularly. I would love to sit at his table and hear him talk for an evening. That would be entertaining enough for me. He must be a facinating man.
Brian’s interview was short and sweet. Brian is a wonderful person and I totally enjoyed the experience. He has attended mangias in the past and also referred many others to come. Brian is always welcome at our events as is All who enjoy socializing with others. Maybe one day I will l see you at a Mangia.
For all the great comments made here JVs reply seems lame to me!!!
Jane while I have approved your comment here, we try not to criticize other commenters here. John comment is fine in itself as far as I am concerned. There is no onus on any interviewee to comment on their thread. Writing can be a difficult thing. Often when people sit down to write, their mind can go blank. Words that would flow easily in speech – never come. Both John and Kathy are caring people and very easy to talk to. I enjoy their company tremendously whenever our very busy schedules permit us to get together. I implore you, let us concentrate on the positive message of the Vernotica’s interview which touched so many people in a profound and positive way and not devolve in to a condemnation based of the brevity of some comments.
I think Jane’s comment about John’s reply is a bit harsh, but I do wish he would have addressed more directly some of the questions the group has put to him. Because of that I am dissapointed with his response.
Peace my friends! I hope John will comment more as time permits him and that Kathy will favor us with a response as well. Know that a very small percentage of blog readers are commenters. It is actually considerably less than 1%. We should all appreciate the fact that so many readers comment here.
Leigh I’ll take it one step further than Jane did. I looked on Facebook and John posts every 10 minutes. He reminds me of my high school daughter. He could have done a lot better with his reply. In fairness to him though Brian is such a great writer that he makes us all look lame. And he did take the time to reply. Having taken a poke at John who sounds like a nice guy, I‘ll take my real shot at all the “Mangia groupies” if there is a 1000 of them who go to these dinners and take advantage of all of John’s hard work. By my count only two of you bothered to comment here, and no one focused in on John’s agile abilities. Organizing dinners is a pain and takes a whole lot of work, I have done it before. Why so silent all you Mangia diners????
Now Haley behave! If your daughter is posting every 10 minutes, take her Smart Phone away until she can pay for it herself. And I am NOT here to make anyone appear less by comparison in any way. Though I appreciate the implied compliment. The fact that I am writing more than the average person should naturally improve my writing skills. Or to say it another way, practice makes one less imperfect. John is a nice guy and a great person to know firsthand. I will agree that I am a bit surprised that there were not more mangia follower comments here. You have to put that in the context though that this is essentially a business technical blog that borders on the scientific if I can use that term. I am sure that its venue essentially scares off the average commenter.
That’s too harsh Haley! You are putting Brian in a difficult position and he always writes like a gentleman and sounds like a gentle and caring soul. He must know John fairly well to write with such feeling so your attack can cut both ways. I also would like to see more action in this stream as well since I have a special interest in it. I have actually been considering starting up a side catering business because of the encouragement I have gained from reading John’s interview. I have looked at John’s Facebook posts and while they are quite frequent they are also very brief. He is probable a better speaker than writer. I do agree with you that Brian’s writing is a tough yardstick to compare to. I think that as the saying goes you get more bees with honey. What I would like to know is the answers to the following questions. How did John and Brian meet! What does Brian talk about at these events? Or is he quiet? Do the other people in the Mangia group know Brian? What does Kathy think? Only John responded and I would really like to hear from her as well.
Thank you Leigh I will now be able to sleep tonight!
I can see the group’s point here. Both Wayne and Dave responded better to their interview comments even though it was not as much as some would have liked. On the other hand, based on John’s two comments, my guess is that this is not really his medium and his communication skills are not quite as good as Dave and Wayne’s. That is why Brian choose to change the format of the interview here. Still I think everyone needs to chill out here a bit. The interview was very well written. It made excellent points. It is encouraging some people to follow their dreams. It has brought some others out of their shells, maybe for the first time. What more do we expect of a blog or a post? Would you rather Brian had not written this? I doubt that is the case! John, we would all welcome you commenting more, but if you don’t that’s alright too. Kathy, we would also like to hear from you. Brian has written here of you with such respect, we are all intrigued. You sound like a very warm person. What do you think of Brian in return? Is he as cool and smart as he sounds here? Does he speak at Mangia events? What do your friends think of him? Mangia followers speak up if you will as well. I am sure there are many stories you could tell of early Mangia days and the quick evolution of these events that would be instructive. Don’t be afraid!
Ahh! A voice of true reason! Thank you for commenting!
My friend Brian, your blog is becoming popular in my country! As a businessman, I have read your blog with interest. It is the passion of your interview here that has touched my heart and so I must write you. It is a great blessing you have done for these good and warm people for they will now live forever. We too believe in family, friends and food. Meal times especially dinner are not for rushing. Our dinner meal is often anticipated and discussed throughout the day. In my family we have beautiful dishes of specialties that would send you into the deepest rapture of delight. Should you come to my country you are welcome to my table to see how we French dine with family and friends. Please email me if your travels bring you to us.
Paul-Henri, je vous remercie de l’invitation que je suis profondément touché par votre offre pour ouvrir votre maison pour moi. Il me fera plaisir d’accepter votre offre dois-je eu la chance de visiter votre merveilleux pays. Je vous remercie encore beaucoup. S’il vous plaît pardonnez mon mauvais français.
Avec plus profonde gratitude,
Wow Brian – your blog is international! I feel honored just to comment. Thank you so much for writing these wnderful posts and taking the extra time out to answer our comments.
Bonnie it would be less than honorable and disrespecting to not reply to such superb comments and enthusiastic readers.
Interesting thread; that seemed very simple at first. I thought that is was a rather lite post for your forum which runs to rather heavy analysis. Then the comments sparked some controversy. This made me reread the article again more carefully. It seems to me that unless I am mistaken you were using this interview to set up the ethics message in your hurricane Sandy post. Let me know if I was right. I also reread the comments here which in turn led me to read the comments in your other posts. I confess to never really reading comments. They are mostly trash. Your blog has a great deal more comments than most do. Many of them are intelligent and perceptive; some are very emotional and sentimental. I do not know how large your readership is Brian, but, at least you can be assured that they are passionate. That is more than most bloggers get!
Nice story Brian! It is rewarding to see you reach out to others as much as you have to get your message of Keeping Agile across. Anyone who fails to read this wonderful interview and the heartwarming comments that follow it is missing out. Say Hi to Kathy and John if you see them.
An interesting look at a natural agilist in action, Brian. It occurs to me, too, that some may look at Johnny V’s story and come away with the idea that he’s making it up as he goes along (which is how one of the departments in my company interprets “agile”) but he’s not. He combines his skills and his knowledge into a method that allows him to execute his plan but react and adjust as necessary. Like a wide receiver ginking* around his defender to catch the ball, then threading through the defense towards the goal–Johnny accomplishes his task. I wish we could implement this, in my company.
* “ginking” with a hard g–means “evading”–’80’s Ursinus College sports slang
You are right! Natural agilists always have a plan in their head in some form. They have a clear vision and know what they want to achieve. They then take small steps towards accomplishing this vision and constantly adjust. Your football analogy is very apt! A savy comment as I have come to expect from you!
I think your gentle “PEACE” reply scared everyone here into silence Brian. They are probably afraid you will stop replying or even worse stop posting. OH NO! I just thought a little humor was in order here. I think everyone was getting a little too serious. As a long time troller, I can tell you this happens when people really like the blog or whatever forum it is. You have a great blog and are developing a very loyal readership that is well merited. You should write more. It will make everyone happier!!!!
Actually Sarah as a fellow lurker I think all the commenters are scaring Brian or he is just too busy. I noticed he is not replying to comments as quickly as he was in the past. Also in his post the night of the deadly micromanger some people got off topic and Brian had to bring it back to the subject matter. I was surprised that some of the comments were approved although none were vulgar or anything like that. He obviously doesn’t like censorship. It just appears that Brian is a private person known only to a circle of friends and we need to respect that.
Brian if you will let me know when you will be attending the next mangia event and where it is, I and my friends want to attend if you promise to sit next to us and answer all our questions.☺
Brian when is the next event that you are going to be attending?
Hey JohnnyV – Mangia! GREAT story! Heck of an interview! I never met this Brian at a Mangia. How long have you known him. Tommy told me he was super smart about EVERYTHING. Sounds like he has got a lot on the ball. Him I gotta meet. When’s he comming to a Mangia?
Hey JohnnyVee nice interview. Everybody is telling me to sit next to Brian at the next Mangia because he’s like a walking encyclopedia when’s he going next.
Hey JohneeV the mangia are great! So’s this interview.
Hi Brian: This was another great interview. I love this series and hope you never stop interviewing. Kathy and John sound like such wonderful people I would love to meet them. When is the next Mangia that you are going to? I’d like to meet you as well!
Nice tribute by the author. Does anyone know if John does these events anymore?
John & Kathy are great friends. Yes, John does have events lined up. I can find out more since my wife & I are going to dinner this Friday night with John & Kathy.