2 Questions You Should Memorize for Networking Events

The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg

Right now I’m teaching a senior capstone course that prepares e-media seniors to graduate and enter the workforce. There are two required texts: The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg and Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields. Why these two books?

  • The Ellsberg book focuses on all the practical stuff you don’t get taught in school (at least not typically): how to turn passion into a paying career, how to learn sales and marketing, how to find mentors and network, how to build your brand.
  • The Fields book focuses on training yourself to be better at handling uncertainty and risk, which we all know is abundant in any worthwhile creative endeavor. I excerpted this book last year; if you missed it, read: A Hidden Aspect of Creative Life That Underpins Great Work.

But to get to the key point: In the Ellsberg book, what has stuck with me, months after initially reading it, are his two questions to help you network with anyone, but particularly those who reside higher on the food chain than you. Quoting directly:

I’m going to teach you two questions that, if you put them into use at parties, events, and conferences, will change your life forever and will grow your network faster than you ever thought possible.

1. What’s most exciting for you right now in your life/business?

2. What’s challenging for you in your life/business right now?

Ellsberg believes—and I agree—that everyone (even those more successful than you) are struggling with at least one area or issue where you might know more than they do. To explore this issue more—and to get a deep dive into how to use these questions with the right attitude—then I highly urge you to get the book.

While I’m talking about Ellsberg, I’ll go ahead and point you to his Forbes blog, where he has some invaluable advice for writers:

Posted in Marketing & Promotion.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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Richard Beckham IIJoe LalondeLlbarkatJosh HoggLaura Recent comment authors

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Jim Hamlett

Very timely, Jane. I have a young friend who is about to attend her first writers conference. She just emailed to ask if I’d look over her book proposal, one-sheet, and listen to her pitch. I will be forwarding a link for this post to her. Thanks.


Umm, Ellsberg had me until “meditate”. Sorry. Now I’m afraid to look at Fields’ work… Some of us just ain’t that Californian. 

Bri Clark

The other key ingredient here is sincerity. When you ask really mean it. Pay attention and take record of what they are saying. Thanks Jane! Always great stuff.


Every college student would benefit from a course like this one right before Real World 101 and student loan payments hit! Ones who apply this advice will prosper.


Once again Jane you’ve delivered by sharing  fantastic words of wisdom. 

Josh Hogg

I swear Ellsberg writes some of the longest blog posts I’ve ever seen. Will need to save these for later when I have more time. Just spent a good 20 minutes going through the Tim Ferriss Post. Thanks for the links Jane!

L.L. Barkat

Fun. 🙂 Those are two questions I often ask the people who work with me! And, yes, these questions often lead to unexpected places. Some of the columns we developed at Tweetspeak came directly from such conversations.

L.L. Barkat

Fun. 🙂 Those are two questions I often ask the people who work with me! And, yes, these questions often lead to unexpected places. Some of the columns we developed at Tweetspeak came directly from such conversations.

L.L. Barkat

okay, and I just bought the two books. I figure it will make me feel like I took the class with you 🙂

Joe Lalonde

Thanks for sharing this information Jane! It inspired me to write a blog post with my answers to the 2 questions and challenging my readers to think about the questions they’ll ask when networking. Post should go live on the 9th.

Richard Beckham II
Richard Beckham II

I’ll remember those questions at my next MFA residency, and when I can afford to go to a writing conference. Thanks for sharing and recommending the book!


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[…] Anregung zu diesem Blogpost kommt von Jane Friedman. Am 02.05.2012 stellte sie zwei Bücher vor, die zum Curriculum ihrer Studenten an der […]


Thank you for a great and practical post. I can’t wait to put those questions to use!