Open the Invitation



  • “We only go where we are invited” (2:25)

  • Be ready for who shows up (6:05)

  • An invitation to invitation (8:25)

  • Your turn: Are you waiting for an invitation or are you pushing for a specific outcome? (10:10)


I recently spent several days in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.

Right before starting my own company, I spent three years working in New Mexico with an organization called the National Indian Youth Leadership Project (NIYLP) as their Chief Operating Officer. It was a position funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies, and the focus was to help NIYLP take their evidence-based program, Project Venture, and create a replication model and a training program, and also build a leadership team from within their Native American staff.

The funny thing is, during my time working at NIYLP, I learned far more about leadership, followership, effective strengths-based programming, authenticity, and the value of positivity than I brought to the job – and that is for sure.

After traveling and working with founder and Executive Director Mac Hall, I left NIYLP a far better human being and leader than when I arrived.

My recent trip back to New Mexico was my first return in nearly 10 years. Driving familiar streets and visiting the pueblos as a tourist (or a learner, actually) when in the past I was there in work mode, was an incredible journey for me.

Reflection is one of the key tools for increasing the self-awareness, and it is a major component in the Navigating Challenging Dialogue® process. It’s also a tool I use daily in my personal life.


Standing on top of the sandstone mesa known as Sky City, and home to the Acoma Pueblo people since 1150 AD, I was deep in reflection about how my time at NIYLP informed who I am today and the work I am so passionate about – creating self-awareness in leaders and emerging leaders.

When talking about Project Venture, NIYLP’s founder, Mac, often says he had one good idea in his life, and he is going to keep working it. Project Venture is an effective prevention and empowerment program for Native youth, and Mac’s been developing it, deepening it, and expanding it for nearly 40 years.

When I started at NIYLP, I was eager and energized to use all the business development tools and tactics that had worked so well previously to help bring a program into the world, but Mac taught me an incredible lesson.

He said, “We only go where we are invited,” meaning we could provide information, but we wait to be asked.

We didn’t assume that we knew what was best for a community. Instead, we trusted that, when the time was right, their invitation would come. His philosophy often frustrated me when I saw a need that I was certain NIYLP could help, but after working side by side with Mac for those three years – and still, today, as I observe the spread of the Project Venture program – I see the power of his philosophy.

Navigating Challenging Dialogue and Beth Wonson & Company are in a huge expansion mode. The power of Navigating Challenging Dialogue is my mission, as I know it has the potential to change forever how each participant views speaking their truth with empathy and compassion while focused on the good of the whole.

One participant recently said, “Navigating Challenging Dialogue is like getting an inoculation. Once you’ve had the experience, you can’t view yourself or how you engage with others the same way ever again.”

But I also know that those who are ready will invite themselves to Navigating Challenging Dialogue. It is not my job to force the issue. As I tell everyone I work with: You are the expert on your business, your work, your culture, and your life, while I am the expert on navigating challenging dialogue. You choose the timing, and then, together, we will co-create how Navigating Challenging Dialogue fits your world.


As I walked the Sky City mesa in the blasting sunshine under puffy New Mexican clouds, I could not see another village in any direction. The residents of the mesa pueblo – fewer than 20 people live there full-time – again reminded me of the power of Mac’s wisdom.

My interpretation was: Live the work, let people know what’s possible, be open to connection and referral. No chasing. Let the work speak for itself, and go where you are invited.

As I engaged with the Native people and artisans living their intentional life in the traditional pueblo village, seeing their focus on family, nature, culture, and tradition, I became more grounded. They do their authentic work, and then simply stand on the top of the mesa, ready for someone like me to drive to them, to appear where they are and buy their creations, hear their story, or simply connect.

I was reminded of how much chasing I do, how much thinking, planning, and strategizing I do. I can only imagine if I had asked one of the artist-vendors, “What is your business plan?”

I’d likely hear something along the lines of, “I rest. I wake. I eat. I pray. I connect to the Earth. I listen to Spirit. I share my story through my creations and, if you are inspired to, you may buy them.”


This trip back to New Mexico was cleverly disguised as a vacation and a birthday celebration for my partner. In reality, it was a reconnection to what I most needed to know about nurturing the expansion of my mission and my work, once again.

Many of the foundational components and wisdom of Navigating Challenging Dialogue are derived from my own learning and increased self-awareness during my time with NIYLP and Mac Hall.

I am so grateful to NIYLP and all who welcomed me, and also to my friend and colleague, Bart Crawford, who connected me to this work and these people. A big part of my heart is in New Mexico.

I think the takeaway for me in all of this was the awareness that the work of Navigating Challenging Dialogue is to go deeper … to focus on my own self-awareness, the discovery, the mission, and the creation of what I’ve been called to do, and to extend to you an invitation to join in whenever and in whatever way you are called.

If you are reading this, you are already here in this work known as Navigating Challenging Dialogue – you are increasing your awareness of who you are and how that impacts you and those around you.


Here is another invitation—

  • Where are you pushing too hard for an outcome versus fully engaging in the creation, the connection, and the process of your journey?

  • Where is your attachment to an outcome causing you to miss the pleasure and ease that come from your journey?

  • Where could your business plan look more like the one I imagine the Acoma artists live by at the top of the mesa?

Welcome to the journey! I look forward to connecting and engaging with you.