Failure can often be a greater teacher than success. Our most valuable learning experiences are often the ones that leave us looking like a fool. With that in mind, I offer the three greatest mistakes I’ve made since I started writing for ROK:

1. Underestimating How Much Money Drives The Internet

When I began writing for ROK, I naively assumed other bloggers were writing for the same reason I was—because they wanted a platform to share their perspective. I had little conception of internet marketing, or that for many, writing is merely a means to an end. I assumed other blogs writing on similar topics were simply sharing a perspective, rather than trying to capture a marketshare. When they attacked people I respected, I was confused. After all, isn’t there room for everyone?

In retrospect, it was an education I needed. If you’ve ever spent money on an ebook that turned out to be worthless, or paid for coaching that didn’t help, you’ve gotten a taste of that education too. For many, the internet is a place to extract value from, rather than give to. Writers need to get paid for and market their work, but as a reader, it’s wise to always look at the financial incentives of what you read online—yes, even my work.

Not understanding internet marketing caused me to miss a few frauds. Some of them eventually came after writers I respect. If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have called them out immediately. Though it’s perhaps my only regret writing for ROK, it’s a lesson I won’t soon forget.

The flip-side of this lesson is that if you learn how scams sell products with no-value, or frauds make a name for themselves, you’ll know how to promote work that does have value. I’ve already applied what I’ve learned about internet marketing to work I do outside of ROK. Knowing the basics of internet marketing is essential. If you can relate to my mistake, start studying.

2. Underestimating How Much The Media Lies

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2014 was the year of lies. The year began with lies, as the media tried to link a mass murderer from a forum that tried to dox ROK writers, with our supporters, when he actually had more in common with their own failed philosophy. There were lies by omission, like Rotherham, in which the rape of thousands of young girls was covered up due to political correctness.

There were institutional lies, like the corruption exposed by #GamerGate – which had mores stories than I can list here. The year ended with one of the largest media scandals yet—the UVA rape hoax, in which Rolling Stone magazine published an entirely fabricated rape story that went viral and caused mass hysteria.

I’ll admit, it wasn’t until suspicions were raised by the RooshV forum that I started to question the story. I assumed on first reading that the reporter responsible, Sabrina Erdely, had interviewed not just her primary source, Jackie Coakley, but all of the friends she quotes in her article.

The idea that a reporter for a major magazine would have an agenda did not surprise me, but that she would be so incompetent as to not even speak with the people she attributes quotes to in her article? Surely the media couldn’t be that arrogant!

Well it turns out, they were. At this point, the UVA rape story has been exposed to be a complete fabrication, and no one in the media has learned anything from it. I’ve yet to see one thought piece asking what this means for journalism, but I’ve seen several defending it. Whatever #GamerGate said about gaming press is true of the larger media.

To my knowledge, the first to question this story were Richard Bradley, the brilliant RooshV forum, and Return of Kings. Part of the reason I love this site is that there are others here who catch the lies I don’t. Now, I won’t put anything past the media. This won’t be the last time they lie, or even the worst. Count on it.

3. Underestimating Myself

This is either a humble-brag, or a confession of my lack of confidence. I’m not sure which. I assumed when I started writing on ROK, no one would have any idea who I was or read my work for at least two years. I was just a guy who’d gained a lot from the manosphere, and wanted to give back. I had a desire to be heard and a willingness to learn, and that was about it. See point 1—when I started I was so naive, I didn’t even know what internet marketing was.

Since then, I’ve had people I respect respond to my writing online, including those who introduced me to the red pill. I’ve seen my article reblogged by I’ve seen my posts turn up on real-life friend’s timelines, not knowing it was me writing. I even had one guy say that it was my article that turned him red pill.

I feel incredibly honored knowing that my work has affected even just one of you. My Return of Kings identity is relatively separate from my everyday life. I launch these posts into the unknown, not knowing who will read them or what affect they’ll have. I was honestly considering retiring from ROK, when I read I’d turned someone red pill and got another email from someone who appreciated my work the same day.

Haters don’t faze me, but kindness still makes me a little teary. Your words have more power than you know. If me or another writer at ROK has made a positive difference for you, let us know by email or Twitter.

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If you have a desire to write, or create something, start. Don’t wait. Just start. If you’ve got something to say, it’ll be worth it, mistakes and all.

*Bonus mistake: My Screenname.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the symbolic value of my former screenname “runsonmagic” (runs-on-magic, get it?), but it does read like a twelve year-old’s AOL screenname. I used to cringe when I’d read serious criticism of my writing referencing me by that name. While I still support online anonymity, from here on out I’ll be using my more formal name on ROK: Eric Crowley.

Read More: The Best Of ROK Staff Writers In 2014