I'm an angel investor, birder and lister, former retail guy, grandfather, author of three books, lifelong student of business models, collector of neat stuff, and a lover of good food, while doing that crazy dance around caloric intake! As I head more toward my version of retirement, I am devoting less time as an influencer, blogger and online commenter/poster. There is way too much outstanding content out there for me to try to make headway into that torrent of information; there's only so much time in a day, and I want to devote a nice chunk of it enjoying this incredible, golden age of series, movies, podcasts and the written word. I've always been a seeker of fun experiences with my family and friends, and going forward now making it an even bigger part of my plans. I also have a lot of fun collecting older, finely detailed things made by incredibly talented artisans (aka objects of vertu or 'smalls', and pietra dura). I am attracted to the romance of antiquity and really enjoy the thrill of the hunt for that elusive item. More recently I have derived a lot of satisfaction better defining and presenting my personal aesthetic.
I'm really into birding. It's the source of my spiritual connectedness. For me, when I go birding it's like going to church, which is great, because I don't have people between me and my maker! Keeping a life list plays to my competitive side. I'm world ranked (#44) for having so far identified 815 species of birds in the ABA Area (the United States, including Hawaii, and Canada). I'm on the board of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters. You can read more about my passion for birds here.
After spending 22 years in retail management, I left corporate mainstream in 2000 and founded Milwaukee's first angel network, Silicon Pastures. Over the past 19 years I've invested in dozens of early stage companies, after reviewing thousands and thousands of business plans. I have been very fortunate to have so much experiential variety over the past 20 years. In November, 2015, I was inducted into the Wisconsin Investors Hall of Fame, and in August, 2012, was the recipient of the George Dalton Inspirational Entrepreneur Award. I've been on the board of directors of a number of private and public companies, as well as non-profits. I've always derived immense satisfaction helping to build something from nothing. And when there's a 'win', it's exhilarating. Conversely, when a startup fails, as most of them do, it's no fun. People who know me will confirm that I don't like to lose! Yes, it's a little crazy making that I've been so into startups, and probably helps explain why I am starting to pull back. But to be clear, I still have a few dogs in the hunt.
I'm also, surprise surprise, a bit of a creative irritant when it comes to group dynamics: my contribution is sort of an odd mix of right brain/left brain influences! For me, my own special type of hell is being in a group that's ruled by the tyranny of positivity, when so much around us the world is falling apart! I try to push boundaries, extend reach, strive for increased market share. Analysis, sometimes probing, combined with the encouragement to explore new ideas and options. And then going out to celebrate the hard work and wins! This approach tends to upset the status quo. Yep, it just does. Some people love it when things get challenged, and some people break out into hives.
To put it simply, a big part of my journey, as it has been for so many years but even more so today, is about actively surrounding my little world -- literally, my space, inside whatever four walls I am at the moment as well as outside when I am in the open air -- with the good and the beautiful and the genuine and the intellectually honest, as best I can, and shielding ourselves from the idiots and the idiocy. This usually means spending a lot of time around birds! But to be clear, I am no longer OK with 'go along to get along'. I know, Brene Brown, I've read one of your books and seen your TED talk, but no, I'm no longer going to eagerly engage with folks who deny global warming and other facts in the hopes that we can reach common ground.
Look, I know confirmation bias is very powerful; it's too painful for these flat-earther's self-perception as being smart and right-thinking to face up to the truth of it all. They are so inextricably tied to their political and TV network/Fox News tribal identity. This is no different to when their parents in the 1970's denied that smoking cigarettes caused lung cancer, remember that idiocy? Isaac Asimov wrote years ago about the 'culture of ignorance' that is such a large part of American culture, where so many don't invest the time to lean in and learn, instead proclaiming that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." For a lot of reasons, certain humans inherently are drawn to and prefer to spread lies. Some things just don't ever change.
In the old days during a round of golf I'd let things pass with guys (I guess they should be called 'comrades', or Commanders, at this point) who thought Fox News was fair and balanced, and who couldn't get their brains wrapped around pesky things like facts and science. Today, not so much, by a long shot. I now encourage friends and family to resist not resisting. How bad does it have to get before you have the courage to pivot and say their ignorance is NOT as good as your knowledge? Being complicit has consequences.
During presidential election years in particular, it's fair to say I'm a political junkie. I care deeply about this country, and the planet we live on, it's the only one we'll ever have. I'm now past the gut-wrenching shock and deep disappointment I experienced following the ascension of Donald Trump in the Republican Party, and what was to follow. Proactively, ahead of the election, we had to sever some previously cherished friendships as well as a couple relationships with service providers who shockingly supported a delusional whistling teapot of a man with no moral compass, so psychologically flawed and impulsive, completely devoid of compassion (needing Hope Hicks, of all people, to script his empathy), a cultural flamethrower, a perpetual victim who forever punches down, with no intellectual curiosity, such a shameless liar's liar, now an incompetent stooge and, using a Chief of Staff term, idiot, and a Secretary of State term, f@cking moron on the world stage, with complete disregard to presidential duty and utter contempt for the rule of law. And of all his disgraceful behaviors, Mieke Eoyang nails the one that will forever define his legacy: "Trump steals people's dignity like the devil steals people's souls". Absolutely NO ONE comes out the other end of a connection with Trump the better for it. To the contrary, they are forever diminished. He is exhausting and insufferable. If you are still a supporter of Trump, do you really want to be associated and aligned with all this Stink for the rest of your life, the moral rot and societal decay he's promulgating, the utter chaos and policy incoherence and cronyism and nepotism, just so you'll pay fewer taxes?
We initially fretted about cutting the cord with friends who supported Trump, losing a lot of sleep in the process. Yet we decided, well before the election, that by being silent and continuing our 'go along to get along' approach with these folks we were, in effect, being duplicitous to Trump's profound hate-mongering and his abdication of basic decency. Near and dear to me, Trump is totally disconnected to Nature; he doesn't give a damn about the environment, and protecting our natural resources (exhibit #1: Scott Pruitt, and now his successor). Finally, in addition, as part of this whole interpersonal conundrum, it was time to more emphatically take a stand toward global warming denialists and the false equivalences they embrace: the FoxNewsers' growing rejection of science deeply threatens an informed democracy. I will also add that we’re experiencing big time Shifting Baseline Syndrome, where people are accepting the new normal of worsening environmental conditions, and it’s downright scary: for example, Wisconsin lakes that had plentiful populations of all kinds of fish species as recent as say 25 years ago, now don’t, and people, often but not always younger, are accepting this as ‘what it is’, not realizing just how badly things have deteriorated.
So we ended these connections. It wasn't easy.
Thank goodness we did. I really mean it, we have so much more peace by limiting these sources of conflict. Some of our former friends now have severely enlarged yet growing amygdalas and are now in Stage 4 Shrinking Man's Syndrome, referred to as Paul Ryan's Disease when he was Speaker, in that their spines are vanishing. Other symptoms include putting party over country, and protecting the President instead of the Constitution. The double whammy of confirmation bias and fear mongering, promulgated by Fox News, is an aggressive scourge, particularly when directed at morally weak and fact-compromised members of tribes wanting to belong, intellectual integrity be damned. And what's with these people who just love to share ideologically extreme, conspiratorial, sensationalist and phony information on social media? Can't you see how you're getting played? What is playing out is too reminiscent of what happened in Germany in the 1930's and Joe McCarthyism in the 1950's. Remaining silent has consequences.
And of course, elections have consequences. Team Blue voter turnout was awful in 2016. It was better in 2018, but we have a long way to go.
For me, Trump's emergence has let the genie out of the bottle; it's the bubbling up of the just-below-the-surface bigotry and stupidity I've observed (and frankly, tolerated) since being a college kid in Charlottesville many decades ago, much of it tied to the Confederacy, and Jim Crow, and the Evangelical Right (demonizing those for not living up to their bullshit imaginary code, while so many of their own so easily commit sins, some in the 'full sin' category, erroneously at peace that they can eventually repent and then unequivocally go to Heaven; I'm not sure things are that easy at the Pearly Gates), and finally the Good Ol' Boys that so dominate the South and many other places. In fact, the most jolting truth to come out of Trumpism is the sheer hypocrisy from the Christian Right. This is an excellent data driven, psychological analysis of why things are such a mess. And here is an excellent review of the hypocrisy of what used to be the extreme wing, now more the norm, of the Republican Party, on the admittedly tough issue of abortion, for example. There's just no way these people are going to change their values and mindsets. There was a time I was oh so hopeful for the vast majority of us to pull together and make things better. It's taken me so long to figure out that 'compromisers' and true problem solvers are in the minority, members of a dying breed. The reaching consensus busters are winning. Much can still get done, thankfully, but the hope now has limits, it's measured in proportion to the realities of our culture, and quite frankly the state of our species and the human condition.
I feel that so far I've lived a full and certainly self-examined life. And I have some peace of mind that I’ve got just a fair chunk of it figured out, particular when it comes to understanding the human condition. But I also realize that there are many things I'll never be able to fully process, or reconcile, or solve. To the contrary: we are prone to repeat history, the really bad parts. It has taken me forever to reflect and dial into the truth that human history is fleeting, that civilizations rise and fall from war, weather and the flaws of human nature. And our brains are wired so that many people (to include persons you would swear would or should just know better) can't filter and process much less discern the difference between facts, science and nonsense. How can you deal with that? By learning about the human condition. And then having a strategy to deal with it.
Also, sometimes people get dealt a crappy hand (no, I don't believe that everything happens for a reason). But there is always the next hand. Now, I am more accepting, or at least more resigned to much of this. The stuff I have figured out over the course of recent years has helped ground me, and has provided me with some genuine contentment that I honestly didn't have in the past.
With this in mind, I've accumulated what I call my truths, distilled and refined over the past couple of decades of my life, about business, health, and happiness and a bunch of other topics.
Read my truths here.
To date, I've invested in about 50 startups; eight have so far had successful 'exits'. I've been chairman and lead investor in two startups that have been acquired by Fortune 500 companies: Internet retailer BUYSEASONS, which owned and managed the largest retailer of costumes in the world, BuyCostumes.com (sold to Liberty Media in 2006), and ModernMed, a healthcare services company, which was sold to DaVita in 2012.
Read more about my investments here.
From the Blog
The Rusinow Family Foundation was founded in 2000. So far we've donated over a million dollars, although currently the foundation is less active. See more about what we've done here.