I'm an angel investor, birder and lister, former retail guy, grandfather, author of three books, student of business models, and foodie, when I'm not managing 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'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 (#32 for now, but will go higher when others get their lists updated with recent changes) for having so far identified 803 species of birds in the ABA Area (the United States, which now includes Hawaii as of late 2017, and Canada). I'm on the board of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters. You can read more about my passion for birds here.
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! Now that we're into 2018, I've put my earlier thoughts on Trump later in this section. But to be clear, I am no longer OK with 'go along to get along'. For example, if you are a climate change denialist, well then you're an idiot. In the old days I'd let things pass with guys 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.
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 16 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 all around us the Earth 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.
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 (the planet, that is). 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 whistling teapot of a man with no moral compass, so psychologically flawed and impulsive, completely devoid of compassion, 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 Secretary of State term, f@cking moron on the world stage, with complete disregard to presidential duty. This is a guy with a terrible batting average with his business dealings, more often than not resulting in bankruptcies and failure: several of his hotel and golf deals, his steaks, his university, his airline, his vodka, his magazine, his board game, his USFL team, and his casinos were all unmitigated disasters. He screws his contractors, constantly makes promises he doesn't keep, and is despised by true real estate developers (aka people who actually build things) in NYC. His interaction and reactions to people of color, even Gold Star families, no matter under what circumstances, is abhorrent. How could they not see what Trump is? Looks like a duck...
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). 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.
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. 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. Elections have consequences. And to be clear, Hillary Clinton was a very competent person but absolutely terrible candidate who should not have been the Democratic nominee; only she and Robby Mook could have screwed things up so incredibly. And there were far too many key figures on Team Blue, from Debbie Wasserman Schultz on down that were disgustingly complicit to the Clinton Stink. My feelings about Trump and the embarrassment and nightmare that so many of us are enduring in this bizarre political environment, are spot-on by this blogger here and even a Fox News host here. And finally, here is a book where psychiatrists - count 'em, 27 - delve into his instability and delusions; our President has some serious psychological issues.
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 Good Ole Boys that so dominate the South and many other places. 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 a fair chunk of it figured out, particular when it comes to understanding the human condition. Not to deny that some 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. 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 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 close to a million dollars, although currently the foundation is less active. See more about what we've done here.