The day that fertility specialist Dr. Robert Kiltz visited Skaneateles High School, students in Rick Garrett’s biology class were expecting to learn about medicine, fertility and birth. But the lessons ended up being about living life, dreaming big, reaching high and taking risks.
“What is YOUR dream?” Kiltz asked students as he worked his way around the big circle he had asked students to make with their desks. He waited patiently during uncomfortable pauses and laughter as students tried to come up with answers.
“Dream big. Dream stupid,” he urged students. “We don’t take enough risk. Why? Fear of failure. But failure is OK. The more you fail the more you grow. How many times did Edison fail?”
Kiltz wasn’t always the successful fertility specialist with four clinics and 160 employees throughout New York State. He had dyslexia and struggled as a young student. “I grew up on the streets in LA in the wrong peer group,” he said. At 14, he was in a gang and ended up in jail.
Eventually, he found ceramics. “I got really good at pottery,” he said. He was a potter and artist when he broke his leg at age 19. He had to spend three months in bed. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “I began to read.” In addition, he met “a hippy doctor” who inspired him to consider a medical degree.
Now he owns and runs the CNY Fertility Center, which provides comprehensive reproductive services. He is also an avid writer and in 2011 published his first book, The Fertile Secret: Guide to Living a Fertile Life.
But he wasn’t in the biology room at Skaneateles High School to tell his life story. He was there to inspire. “What am I?” he asked. “I am a doctor, right? Well, yes. That is what I have experience doing, but it is not who I am.” He was there to tell students they could be what they want to be, and more.
He repeatedly challenged them to think big and to dream big.
“If you do nothing, nothing happens,” he said. In other words, do not limit yourselves, he said. “Have a really big dream. If you want to be what you want to be … starting looking at it, reading it and going there now,” he said.
“We are all geniuses, by the way,” he told students.
Kiltz, founder and director of Central New York’s first successful IVF center, funds a scholarship of $2,500 to a graduating senior each year at Skaneateles High School. This year’s scholarship went to David DuBois.
He attributes his success to his attitude. “I have a lot of passion. I get up at 4 a.m. every day and am work at 5 a.m. I love it.”
He said it is important to practice positive thinking “because every negative thought has negative energy and attracts what we don’t want.”
One of his biggest tips: “Turn off the TV.” He said there is a direct correlation between success and television. “The more TV you watch, the less money you make.”
Never stop learning, he said. Take failure as growth. “Everything is created twice – first in the mind and then in reality.”