Defending your thesis is no joke. I've had friends crack up while preparing. It plays out like an episode of "Defend Your Life." In many cases you are defending your life. Your thesis is more than words on a page, it's a fundamental belief that you've been working towards for years. Everything learned and gained has had a part to play in the birth of that brief. So it can be gut wrenching and life altering when you find yourself at a loss in it's moment of reckoning.Redditor u/dexMiloyev wanted to know about the times as a student when many of us were left.... stumped by asking.... Doctoral candidates who couldn't defend their thesis, what happened?
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One of my colleagues in grad school didn't finish his dissertation. Our advisor moved universities and told him he wasn't invited.
My friend had a nervous breakdown from which he never recovered. His wife divorced him because he spent all day catatonic in bed for months, and they had two young children to take care of.
Remind me Later
I've only heard of one or two people who didn't pass in the 6 or so years I was in grad school. They just worked on whatever their committee said to expand on and re-did their defense at a later date. Your advisor really shouldn't let you get to the point where you're defending and there's a chance you won't pass. It's more common that people will Masters out or go ABD, but not outright fail.
20 Years Later....
In the early 1970s, my father was an Ed.D candidate, and his thesis was on the topic of self-pacing computerized instruction (at the high school level). He taught himself the Basic programming language and everything, and was quite confident of success.
His thesis was summarily rejected because "there will NEVER be computers in the classroom" other than postsecondary computer science curriculums.
20 years later computers were everywhere in our schools, and you could go to any big box store and buy educational software similar to what my father had envisioned.
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While in graduate school, a professor at my university came up with an idea to write his thesis on. He told his advisor, who basically laughed him out of the room and told him it was a ridiculous idea. A year later, he learned that his advisor had stolen his idea and written a paper on it to be published in a major scientific journal. The student (my current professor) then left the program in disgust and just finished with a master's instead. Pretty good physics professor though.
I knew a PhD student in Math who discovered halfway through her doctorate that the problem she was working on to get her PhD had just been solved by someone else. She was able to work with her advisor to find a way to make the work she applied to that problem be applicable to a similar one. She eventually earned her PhD.
dead to rights....
I have a friend who is a tenured professor at a major university. He submitted a proposal to a funding agency. He later discovered that the program manager had not only stolen his idea, but even reused substantial amounts of text from his proposal in a publication. It turned out that the same guy was in the process of being hired by my friend's university for a leadership role.
Even though he had the guy dead to rights, and my friend's position was fairly secure, the politics of the situation made him too fearful to mention it to anyone.
I can only imagine what might happen to a mere student who accused a professor of this kind of misconduct. The sad truth is, even if the student had unimpeachable evidence, I think a lot of people would choose to obstruct and bury it and destroy the student's life rather than burn a colleague.
We have a family friend who was in a PhD program that basically got disbanded. Like his advisor and several other faculty members got fired. I believe they ended up giving him two master's degrees, Which is nothing to sneeze at but he did the work for a PhD.
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From my experience in grad school, your committee is there every step along the way.
You cant even start until you have an approved thesis prospectus. In this structure, you know if you're ready to defend or not. A member of my cohort was told prior to her thesis defense that she wouldn't pass, so they rescheduled for later.
It's exceedingly rare to outright fail a defense as others have mentioned. One person in my department failed their final defense because they froze up and couldn't even answer the easiest questions from their committee. Most people I know of who didn't complete their defense either left voluntarily with master's degrees for various reasons or failed out for silly, preventable reasons like plagiarism or not turning in their written qualifying exams on time.
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Had a Chinese doctoral student in the program I worked for, who was intentionally putting off and screwing up his thesis process. He only had a student visa, and didn't want to go back to China.
Don't be Salty
I know a guy that eventually got his PhD, but it took extra work and encouragement. Poor guy. His adviser left for another university and forbid him from publishing like 2/3 of his work/data. He failed by trying to honor the former adviser's wishes; he was so depressed and going to just accept it. I was freaking livid, and so was everyone else with a graduate degree that heard about it. In the end he presented all his work, got his PhD, and left for a postdoc. His former adviser was told to pound sand. I'm still a little salty.
"all but defense"
OP, since you're an undergrad perhaps this is new: no competent advisor will let a student defend without meeting requirements. It would be a huge embarrassment for the advisor and committee to fail a candidate at the defense, because it implies they didn't do their supervisory job prior to the defense. Good advisors are invested in helping people in their group succeed.
Nevertheless, not everyone who starts the program will finish. People can drop out for every imaginable reason. From failing to meet the requirements for a PhD (e.g., not producing original work of substantial impact), to losing interest in the topic, medical problems, having problems with their advisor, getting an industry job, deciding to move...
For completeness: the impact of the original research and publications generated during the PhD are the key to a solid defense. Sometimes people put "all but defense" in their resume. This means they took classes and did not defend. But the point of a doctorate is not to take classes, but rather to contribute to the state of the art.
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I went to post grad school with a few who couldn't or who timed out. They are known as all but dissertation or ABD. They typically find work relating to their masters degree... or they bartend. Those are literally the top two options I've witnessed!
The thesis directly opposed the main premise of the field at the time, the board had a political stake in preserving the status quo. Went to another school and they immediately were just like, yep, here's your PhD. Years later, the original school's board was found to be taking oil money on the side.
Failing the defence (or not being allowed to defend) happens, but rarely. What is far more common is failing the comprehensive exams that most PhD programs require. Comps usually happen before or around the time of proposal approval. They consist (for me at least) a reading list of c.260 books that you have to complete three written exams on and two oral exams. It's not uncommon to fail them and not be allowed to continue.
Not me, but my friend at her quals. She walked in, and the committee said, "We've reviewed your work, and we can tell that you won't pass this. Therefore, we're not going to give it to you so that you don't have it on your records that you failed. Withdraw from the program."
I was crushed, and it wasn't even me.
Giving a serious answer here...
If your dissertation advisor is any good whatsoever, they will tell you when you are ready to defend and not allow you to defend until that point. For this reason, it is rare that a doctoral candidate ever fails to defend. The only times I have heard of it happening are when a student insists on defending even though their advisor says they are not ready, with predictable results.
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I have always been a horrible procrastinator and did not have the demeanor to complete a PhD. Did great in the coursework first two years then failed out after the third year. Now I make a lot of money as a quant.
Give me my backpack...
There was a guy in my program before I started (early 2000's) that had ALL of his data on one flash drive. He lost it when his backpack was stolen. Rumour had it he almost committed suicide after loosing like 3 years of work. He never finished and I think he went into a trade. Probably makes more money this way so good on him.
In the Netherlands...
My grandfather did not have to defend his thesis because he did not have to make one. In the Netherlands one could do doctoral by defending a number of assertions/propositions in front of the professors. So a real oral exam. He studied law, so he had to make a list of about 60 topics in different fields of law (criminal, civil, bankruptcy, merchant, sea etc.) like e.g. 'victims of violence have enough/not enough ways of getting compensation' and was questioned in depth about those. Apparently he did well, got the doctorate, and 25 years later Leiden University gave him a special diploma commemorating his doctorate.
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When we go to sleep, we slip into one of the most vulnerable positions we can possibly embody. And we do that every single day.
So it's hardly surprising that, at least a few times throughout our lives--maybe more than a few--we find ourselves snatched from slumber, and left sitting started and defenseless against a threat we can barely make out in those first few seconds.
But for all the vagueness of those first few sensations, we sure do remember those horrible awakenings rather vividly.
And recently, some folks on the internet shared their most memorable experiences.
Redditor ScoopySnacks829 asked:
"What's the worst thing you woke up to?"
Many Redditors encountered animals in the dead of night. The creepy crawling hands and mouths were enough to make their skin crawl.
"My grandmother had a filthy house and made me and my brother sleep on the floor whenever we were over."
"Once I woke up with a rat tangled in my waist length hair. I was 8"
"Another time I woke up to see a giant roach crawl. Out of my brother's mouth as he was sleeping. (I never told him as I figured he would rather live in blissful ignorance.) I was 9."
"To this day have a fear of Rats, roaches, and sleeping on floors."
"A dog's paw in my mouth and getting stepped on the balls at the same time" -- Lower_Environment774
Only Thin Nylon Between You and It
"The sound of a bear outside my tent. Got my heart racing." -- SingLikeTinaTurner
"Oh fu** okay, so I once was woken up by a bear paw to the head. It was just fu**ing around with our tarp but I'm tall so the top of my head stuck out just a tad. It felt like being brained with a sandbag."
"It was a black bear and ran off when we made a bunch of noise, but I'll never forget the few moments of sheer terror, head reeling and seeing that bear paw slide next to my face." -- Cthulhu_sneeze
"Blood all over the bed that I was in. Then I saw the flyscreen had been torn open. Then I heard a crunching noise. And then I saw the cat with the remains of a magpie."
Others shared the times they encountered a personal tragedy immediately upon waking up in the morning.
"woke up to the news one of my best friends family had been murdered in an arson attack and that he had tried to save them and had 3rd degree burns over 70% of his body..."
"I woke up to my dad telling me my mom had a brain tumor."
"It was during a sleepover with my best friend at the time. I knew they were going to get her an MRI because she had been having really bad chronic headaches, but none of us expected brain cancer."
"When they removed the tumor two weeks later they removed a baseball and a half sized mass of tumor from her right frontal lobe. She's alive and well now 15 years later, thank god, but that was an awful time for everyone in our family."
The Worst Reason to Get Up and Go
"My uncle calling me in the middle of the night to tell me my mom was in the hospital, and that I should fly out as soon as possible if I wanted to be able to say goodbye."
Finally, some people discussed the times they felt threatened by other human beings that clearly did not have their best interests at heart.
Just What Did They Want
"Someone jiggling the handle on my door, trying to get in to my apartment. Scary as fu**. I don't know if he was drunk and thought it was a different apartment, or if he was just going door to door, seeing if any were unlocked."
"My ex-girlfriend pointing an unloaded gun (I thought it was loaded) at me. She pulled the trigger and she wanted to scare me, she thought I was cheating on her with a friend of mine (a female)."
It Gets Worse and Worse
"When I was like 16, the landlord and a couple of other men (LEOs of some sort, presumably, but I didn't get a good look at them) came in to physically evict my mother and I from the duplex we lived in at the time, something I had no idea was in at all."
"Like, we apparently went through the entire eviction process without me getting even a slight sniff of it. I slept naked even back then, so basically, I was awakened by two or three strange men coming into my bedroom."
"I threw on a cream-colored dress and got the fu** out of there, having no other option obviously, and went to my mother's workplace in a panic...where one of her coworkers gently pointed out that I had started my period, which was obvious from a distance, apparently."
Here's hoping this list won't give you trouble falling to sleep tonight.
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Simply put, the line between needs and desires becomes blurry without us even realizing it.
That is, until we look at our bank statement at the end of the month, suppressing the tears and horrified shrieks that want to leap out of us.
But with the help of a recent Reddit thread, perhaps there is hope. Maybe taking stock of exactly which unnecessary places that money is going can help us dial it in.
Redditor Rice_Liar asked:
"What is the biggest waste of money?"
Of course, many people mentioned the common vices that have long been dubbed the easiest way to throw your earnings right down the tubes.
The Next One Will Hit, I Know It
"Scratch off lottery tickets. I visited my uncle, and he asked me to help him sort the scratch tickets he had bought that year (I guess if you collected enough non-winning ones you could turn them in for a small prize?). He had stacks and stacks of tickets. Took us forever to sort them."
"He was proudly telling me about the times he'd won 50 or 100 bucks, but it clearly didn't even begin to break even with the total amount he paid for them."
"I still buy one every once in a while for fun, and know that a lot of people enjoy the thrill of them and don't mind spending a few dollars for it, but seeing how many he had with no worthwhile return except a rare win has definitely stuck with me."
"I just quit smoking and I have to say tobacco, in the Netherlands the pack of tobacco I used to smoke (John player special) costs 14,40 euros or $16.95 dollars according to google u pay that much multiple times a week for something that kills you."
"Any smokers here wanting to quit but can't, just buy a vape pen it makes it so much easier."
Designed to Fail
"Gambling. Most of the time it goes tits up and has ramifications for other people in your life." -- Mgreengo
"Worked at a casino. I saw behind the curtain. You will lose. The only way to win is to accidentally win a jackpot (that you somehow didn't spend over the jackpot amount to win) and walk away never to return." -- Femmefatele
Others discussed those unneeded luxuries that we get lulled into thinking we absolutely need.
For Olympians Only
"buying a house with a swimming pool. Unless you're an avid swimmer, you'll only use it irregularly 2-3 months a year. Requires constant maintenance that cost up to 5k a year."
"If you build the swimming pool after you've bought the house, that's around 30k for a 600 sq2 ft pool. And it most likely will not increase your house' price at all."
"Stupidly expensive weddings" -- FairySpice12
"Napkins - $1"
"Baby Napkins -$5"
"Wedding Napkins- $20" -- OntarioIsPain
How Did They Do That?
"Starbucks. $6 for an iced coffee that usually isn't that great." -- kdub1523
"The $6 'coffees' are usually a drink with a million things added so it doesn't taste like a coffee" -- Main-Argument-5898
And many people took notice of all the money they spend on transactions surrounding our online lives and our relationships to all the new gadgets that make our heads spin.
Monthly Black Holes
"Subscriptions to stuff you don't use anymore." -- StructureMoist
"I feel like you don't need all the streaming services. For me, I have netflix, prime, Disney and Spotify. I pay for prime and Spotify and my boyfriend has Disney and netflix. We share the accounts. I use all of them about about same amount, Spotify the least but I miss it a ton when I don't have it." -- Zanki
Money From An Unseen Source
"Donating to popular streamers they have so much money and they are most likely to not read your donation" -- fiskars12345
"I much prefer to give my money to smaller streamers because they're always so sweet and I like supporting them" -- mintmoonstone
Give It a Few Years
"Latest mobile phones every year with allegedly 'revolutionary' must have new features!" -- MarcDarcy
"I generally skip 3 or 4 generations. Then buy a new phone after I've wrung every last ounce of life out of the old one." -- Majik_Sheff
But It Seemed So Fun For Those Few Seconds...
"buying video games that you'll never play" -- Zack4044
"But it was 75% off, how could I pass up those savings" -- 98raider
"There goes my angry upvote of the day." -- Nidrew
So maybe it's time to face the harsh realities of the monthly statement and see where the big omissions can be.
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You've probably stayed up late watching some television special about a criminal in your area and seen the announcement near the end: "If you have any information, call our tipline." The authorities might even offer a reward of some kind. But what are the chances that you might actually know of the person they're looking for?
People shared their stories after Redditor Renzot56 asked the online community,
"Has anyone here ever actually called into one of the FBI rewards for information on criminals and won the money?"
"My neighbor down the road..."
"My neighbor down the road growing up was always getting into trouble. One day someone robbed a gas station with a gun, and accidentally shot the clerk (so he claimed), and the police didn't know who did it. After about a month, they offered up a small reward for information. The guy arranged to have his wife turn him in to collect the reward, because she would need it since he knew he was going away for a long time."
A likely story!
"I felt pretty good..."
"Ten years ago I'm working front desk at this third rate motel and I'm the only employee on property until 7am.
So I get this report of an unruly guest and check it out. Dudes whacked out on something, threatening other guests and I call the cops to remove him. On their way out they tell me he's got active warrants in another state.
I don't think anything of until three months later I got a check sent to me at work from a sheriff's office two states over. Turns out the guy was wanted for a double murder and I got the reward when he was convicted. I felt pretty good about that."
"My sister has a pretty weird hobby - she solves cold cases by helping match descriptions of bodies that have never been positively ID'd to missing persons matching the body's description. She's solved several cases and submits them to the FBI tip line. Twice now, she's gotten phone calls from law enforcement as a result, one from the FBI and one from a local police department. One had reward money tied to it from long, long ago. She turned it down.
Both times, she's informed the agency calling that the missing person disappeared before she was 10 years old (that's her limit, she doesn't look at recent cases to avoid potential problems), and they just kinda shrug and move on. That's all."
I think I'd be pretty proud if I had Nancy Drew as a sister. Well done!
"I made an anonymous tip..."
"I made an anonymous tip to a local library about someone posting online about wanting to do something sexual in the bathroom of the library.
Local police and FBI gave me a call on my actual number (not the one I used to call in the tip) and asked me a few questions.
Turns out they set up a raid and caught some 19-year old who was trying to meet kids online. Got $500 and they offered to pay me to go on apps/websites like Craigslist and such to find the same kind of people. Was pretty cool."
I'm sure that child's parents were rermarkably grateful.
"In college, we had a drive-by shooting on my block. The police showed up and asked all the neighbors if they had any information. I had just heard the shots from my house and wasn't able to help.
A few days later I was walking home from class and I found a shell casing the in the grass near where the shooting was. I didn't want to touch it so I got home and called the police. I was very very specific about exactly where the shell casing was, and that I DO NOT want the police to come to my door. The neighbors were pretty sketchy people and I just didn't want to be seen being involved.
Well, these cops walked right to my door and asked for me. I told them exactly where to find it (again), they walked to the general area, looked for maybe a minute, then walked back to my front door and asked if I could show where it was. Goddamit. So I led them to shell casing while the sketchy neighbors stood on their porch and watched (looking very displeased).
Apparently, the fingerprints on the casing matched one of their suspects and he was arrested and went to jail. The cops stopped by a few months later with a $20 gift card to a sub shop."
All that for $20?
"When living in Minneapolis..."
"When living in Minneapolis, I saw a Craigslist ad looking for a roommate that specifically worked at Minneapolis-St. Paul international airport and had a badge that allowed them to access beyond security.
I alerted the FBI and Minneapolis police through their tip line. Never heard from either of them."
"I'm sure a bunch of people..."
"I called CrimeStoppers once. The local news released a video of someone violently robbing a store. They beat up the cashier pretty badly.
I knew it the second the video started who it was—a guy I used to party with and had spent the night with a few times.
The CrimeStopper folks gave me a number to write down to claim the money if he was convicted. I wrote it on my hand then washed it off accidentally like an idiot. It was on the smaller side, I think around $1k, but it would have made a big difference at the time. And the guy did end up getting convicted and is still in prison now.
I'm sure a bunch of people called in, though, so I don't know how much I would have gotten. Anyone who grew up in my area who was around my age would have known the guy."
A long time ago..."
"A long time ago, 20+ years, a nearby bank was robbed at gunpoint. The article had a very good photo of the guy. Turns out, he was my sketchy neighbor. Saw him that morning, he was still wearing what was shown in the photo.
Long story short, cops bust him, he goes away for a long hitch, they said a small reward is available. Told them to donate it to a nearby animal shelter. Everyone wins! Well, almost everyone."
The animals certainly won this one! Good for them.
"I've sent a few..."
"I've sent a few tips to the FBI over Internet fraud over the years and have never gotten anything other than an automated response and certainly no rewards."
The FBI might want to do something more than just leaving automated messages for their tip line. Who knows? The answer to some long-unsolved cases might be out there... just a phone call away.
Have some stories of your own? Feel free to tell us about them in the comments below!
Often, high school is where students become rebellious. They're learning about themselves, they're testing boundaries, and they realizing that they can break the rules and sometimes get away with it.
Sometimes they're doing it to mess with a teacher who's treating students unfairly, sometimes they're doing it because they're standing up for the very little autonomy we afford kids in the first place.
Redditor CloudWoww wanted to know about those moments that are unforgettable defiance of authority.
"What was the most legendary thing a student did at school?"
These stories will amaze you!
"My friend once was pissed off at the rest of us guys (5 of us). He chased us into the bathroom because he wanted to be a tough guy and thought one of us was hiding in a stall. He says 'peekaboo I see you!' And kicks the stall door in on a teacher we all knew, taking a crap. The teacher said, 'I see you too Nathan, now close the door.' I will die the day I forget about that lol."
"The teacher's response was legendary!"
"Agreed. Honestly, at that point, what else are you going to do? Invite them in for a cup of tea? Challenge them for the seat? Model the proper way to greet another on the toilet?"
"Teaching is great."
"This kid in my class put the school for sale on Craigslist. He provided the school's attendance office number as a point of contact because everyone hated the receptionist there. They were getting calls from interested buyers for days who wanted to buy a multiple acres of property with a big swimming pool and a track."
"Some kids put up Craigslist ads for free brand new TVs with my school's number listed as the contact and they received thousands of calls by like 10 AM. It was legendary."
A teacher with poor eyesight.
"My English teacher was close to retirement & had really poor eyesight."
"A mate started the lesson on the right side of the classroom & managed to shuffle both himself & his desk to the back of the room and then over to the left."
"He then managed to climb through the window, sauntered round the building, came back into the room & apologized for being late."
"Not even to leave, just to see if he could."
"Yeah, teachers who can't see properly can be pretty funny. I had a teacher like that. During that class, a classmate from our year had a free period and lived too far away from the school to realistically go home. But he had friends in that class, so he just came to that class."
"In the teacher's defense, it was a fairly big class, at least 25 kids, and the kid wasn't disruptive or anything. He didn't actually participate or anything, he just sat there and occasionally talked to his friends while they were working on tasks. It took the teacher several 'visits' to notice that 'visitor,' he seriously didn't notice for several lessons that there was a kid he didn't know."
Teaching the teacher a lesson.
"Teacher everyone hated just cause he was a pure bully. We had a fair snow fall and he was on yard 'patrol' this shy kid launched the perfect snowball 40ft+ and it went in his cup of juice. Splashing out and soaking him. Kid went from 0 to hero real quick! This was approx. 15 years ago and we still talk about it today when I'm with a friend from school."
"Kid is going places."
Someone lost their marbles.
"This kid once brought a backpack full, and I mean completely full of marbles to school. He went to the main staircase near the front up the third floor and dumped the whole bag over the stairwell. How those marbles didn't break the glass trophy case at the bottom is beyond me but marbles went everywhere. Surprisingly he never got caught. He either managed to run to one of the stairwells at the end of the hall and get to the bottom before teachers had time to react or he hid somewhere until the first bell rang."
"This happened back in like 2005. Kid went on to disgrace himself and be sentenced 16 years in prison for military espionage....so."
"Did he blame it on losing his marbles?"
The fire alarm.
"A kid hit the fire alarm when the mayor was visiting our school. For context, we had an assembly the week before where we were specifically told not to hit the fire alarm during the mayor's visit unless there was an actual fire, as it was a common occurrence at our school to just hit the fire alarm whenever."
"'Hey Bob, do you have any plans before school?'"
"'Hey Bill, yeah, I'm just going to pull the ol' fire alarm again.'"
"'I have a study hall around then, I'll pull the ol' alarm for you.'"
"We had a kid do this when our state's Supreme Court was doing a presentation or visiting or something. The staff was FURIOUS, everyone knew he did it, and they tried to prove it was him, saw LEOs dusting the handle for prints. There was an old rumor that when you pulled the handle it sprays like an invisible ink visible to black light on your hand, idk if that's true, but I know the kid used his shirt sleeve to cover his hand when he pulled it, so there weren't any prints."
"There was an old rumor that when you pulled the handle it sprays like an invisible ink visible to black light on your hand, idk if that's true."
"This is definitely not true."
"Source: I am a commercial fire alarm technician.
The rumor that we all believed to scare us as kids, turns out was just that: a rumor.
Senior prank that everyone loved.
"The senior prank one year was hiring a mariachi band to follow our principal around all day. He loved it--went classroom to classroom so everyone could see it and take pictures/videos and have a fun break from class."
"A señor prank?"
Standing up for what was right.
"A special needs kid got a two day in school suspension because he threw a sharpened pencil into the drop ceiling tile. He saw a friend of mine do it and thought it was the coolest thing ever."
"A kid on the football team heard about what had happened and protested the suspension directly to the assistant principal. The a** principal stuck firm to his decision and threatened 'and if anyone else gets caught, it will be out of school suspensions….'"
"The following Monday the entire second floor was closed down for the morning. Come to find out the kid and the football team got into the school over the weekend and just blanketed the entire second floor ceiling with sharpened pencils. The video of it was stellar."
These are some legendary moments that every student will remember and can look back on fondly. What we may never know is if they peaked in these moments or went on to do incredible things.