You’ve seen this picture before: four to five 20 or 30-somethings gathered around a table at the local coffee shop conspiring about the next business idea. There are high pitched shouts of “eureka” and requisite high fives and belly bumps all around signifying that elusive moment where the stars line up and everyone finally gets and buys into the idea. Firmly and decisively, the group breaks up, resolved to draft the necessary documents and go forward with action items. What you don’t see is what happens to the idea in the 24 hours following the dismissal of the group.

A group of four of us sat at that very Starbucks one wintry day. The fake fireplace was pumping out gaseous flames and we sat huddled with warm drinks in hand. At this meeting, we were convinced that a new television show was going to be launched lauding Dallas as the next great bastion in the American experience. I guess I’ve always had the kind of mind that grasps concepts and ideas quickly and effortlessly. A friend and I had come up with a sound, thoughtful idea, which we shared openly with our potential partners on that morning.

You remember that feeling when the sky was the limit and you felt powerful, happy and in charge? We experienced that for one and a half hours. Energy was in full motion. Things moved forward and we were masters of the universe, knowing that our time in the sun was just around the corner. One of our party was a guy from LA who “knew” the Industry, another was a bright guy who probably suffers from A.D.D. (don’t most of us urban dwellers?) who kept us in high spirits and super-charged.

My gal pal and I were thoroughly convinced that we would be the next Regis and Kathie Lee after the initial hour spent collaborating. It’s what happened in the second hour that changed those thoughts. After the whirlwind subsided and the other two guys walked away, we looked at each other and realized that our program idea had completely been changed, the potential partners had put their imprint on it, and we were saddled with the raising of capital. What happens when you suddenly realize that your dream team is really your bad dream team?

The next morning, having allowed all this to simmer and look at the reality of the project, I reached for the phone to dial her number, but my phone was already ringing. She was calling to ask, “what the heck happened?” We had begun with a programming idea that went awry and were expected to raise the money and come up with a business plan. In less than 24 hours, we had been relegated from the next great television show to financial planners. Our interest started to wane and by hour 24, the deal was dead.

I learned something in the process. Who I am and what I want must be consistent with ANY project I’m undertaking. Giving anyone the “wrong” task in a group can and will cripple progress and destroy the creative synergies. You must have a strong sense of self to know your role in potential outcomes of any conversation. And you have to learn when a deal is dead.

There may be a future article about the “resurrection” of dead ideas, but for now I see clearly the life span of many dreams is limited to 24 hours. When I am addressing you from in front of a television camera, hosting a daily talk show, I will write the story of how to resurrect ideas. Until then, I’m sticking to my 24-hour rule.

Oh, did I fail to mention that our “industry insider” from LA recently took a salaried job with an executive search firm? Maybe we’re all dreamers and there’s really nothing wrong with that, as long as we don’t take the process or ourselves too seriously. Hold on – there’s another group gathering, mugs of Java in hand. There go the high-fives. Gee, I wonder what they’re all excited about? Give em 24 hours. They’ll learn.