You started a high-profile fitness career fairly young.
Was this a childhood dream you had or did you just fall into it?

I was very sick with encephalitis when I was 4. Spent a lot of time in the hospital and also remember being home alone quite a bit. One of my favorite things to pass the time was to spin my small globe. And, I knew in the depths of my being that someday I was going to travel, make money, help people and have a good time.

Did you know it would involve exercise?

When I was at the University of Texas, I was very athletic and did college cheerleading. I found I was much more drawn to the movement and creativity of fitness and the arts than to my business major.

Was there a specific moment of truth that swayed you?

I vividly remember having a sort of, out of body experience, where I was looking at a job interview board and felt myself part of some external frenzy that didn't ring true to, I was literally being pushed out of the way by others anxious to sign. As I hyperventilated in total panic looking at that board, KNOWING there was nothing up there that I wanted to do, it occurred to me: "Oh God! I just wasted four years of my dad's money."

Truth can be pretty scary.

I walked outside of the business building, dragging my blue blazer (jacket) behind me on the ground. Stopping in the bright sunlight, I reached my arms out like a bird wanting to fly, hands up to the sky and said, "I don't know what I'm going to do. But, it's going to be fun, and it's going to have meaning."

Been there.

Some time passed and my little nephew and I were watching the National Aerobic Championship on TV. He elbowed me, pointed at the TV and said, "Hey! You could do that!"

I looked at him and then at the TV and said, "You're right." The next year, I won the National Aerobic Championship on national television. That's how it all started, traveling, performing, teaching, and that's when I knew my globe-spinning dreams were being fulfilled. I now understood the valuable message I had to deliver and the venues to do it in...and the doors continue to open.

You trained Christian Bale for his film role in American Psycho. You also work with other celebrities like Barry Manilow and do a good amount of your own TV work. What kind of switches do you turn on or off when you move in those circles?

I like to think I don't turn any switches on or off. The best way to deal with celebrities is to treat them like real people. Most of them enjoy and need a good dose of reality anyway. Early in my career, I was a bit intimidated by television, but once you deal with a few nasty producers, you grow up real fast, and you learn that if YOU want to be heard, you need to focus, quit blithering, remain upbeat, and get your message out in the allotted time, with no apologies.

Why do you choose to live in the Palm Springs desert while others in your field opt for major, media-oriented cities like Los Angeles or New York?

If people could walk outside with me and look at the mountains, they'd understand. I just fell in love with the mountains and nature here. I lived in LA for a number of years and am considering moving back in some capacity, though not full-time. I am, and always will be, a nature-boy at heart.

You feel more spiritually connected in nature?

Yes, I visit the beach frequently, and also have a home in the mountains. The desert has a definite, less-is-more kind of magic which I didn't really understand or appreciate until I got a little older and started really listening.

You've produced and starred in some top-selling instructional Tai Chi and Workout DVDs. Have you practiced other martial arts, and how have they helped you develop as a man?

Aside from 11 years of Tai Chi, I dabble in Kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do, and Karate. I just returned from China where I studied Shaolin Kung Fu. Martial arts have definitely helped me grow as a man, and as a "hu-man." A common misconception regarding martial arts is that it's all about violence. A true martial artist is a peaceful warrior whose higher choice is not conflict at all. Honing my martial skills is more of a physical/spiritual discipline, requiring mental focus. But the best martial skill of all is to be an honorable, more aware human being.

Has championing kids' health with your Get Fit America assemblies and DVD been personally fulfilling? Why are kids an important part of your outreach?

I'm just big kid myself, so I connect with children. I also feel a fatherly desire to give them better opportunities than I may have had. I'm particularly excited to provide early exposure to both martial and healing arts because it teaches them to work hard, set goals, have discipline and be respectful. Chinese children studying at the Shaolin Temple radiated such happiness, health and joy, and I'd love to see more of that in American kids.

Give me an example of Scott Cole, the Big Kid.

(chuckles) Well, I still do prank phone calls. I also still climb trees and will never stop.

A lot of people might view your life as glamorous and idyllic. Have you ever gone through a traumatic, Dark-Night-of-the-Soul type of experience as an adult?

(Laughs) I feel like I go through that every day. The more I learn about the yin/yang energies within us and around us, it seems natural to FEEL a lot about what's going on. When I do sense a soul's shadow experience coming on, I realize I may be investing too much energy into something that is not good for me. That's when my soul goes into its cocoon, thinks and then emerges again with better intentions and, hopefully, a higher level of consciousness.

What are qualities you value in men?

The generalizations of men are that we are unemotional and disconnected, and that we are only driven by testosterone. And, although testosterone does drive a lot of who we are and what we do, we also have a number of opportunities to achieve balance. Men are becoming very aware of the importance of the balancing of the chakras---from root to crown---merging sexual drive, compassion, and love. That said, I value honesty, drive, sensitivity, full-on expression, joy of life and the pursuit of joyful experiences. Really, these are also the qualities I value and want to bring out more in myself. On my website I say, "Be a dream facilitator, not a dream squelcher."

Is there one magical moment from childhood that still makes you smile?

(Smiles) Yes. I was about 8 and riding bikes with my buddy, Glenn. We were gliding down our tree-lined, suburban, Houston street on our bikes. The wind was rushing against our faces as Glenn looked over at me and shouted, "I love spending time with you!"

It hit me like this amazing, life-altering, breathtaking thing. I paused briefly, felt my whole body smiling, and shouted back, "I love spending time with you too!" And, we both just grinned and stared at each other for a few seconds, then faced the road and pedaled even faster.

One of life's more magical moments, for sure.

I think, deep down, men still want to have and express that kind of connection. But, they are afraid to really embrace deep levels of male/male bonding and friendship. And, it's really so important.

I'd like to share the flip-side of that experience.

Go ahead.

It makes me shake to talk about it. I was 9 or 10 and my dad's best friend had recently passed away. My dad took me with him to view the body at the funeral home. As we made our way up to the casket I watched him break down and cry for the first time. And, as he reached in and placed his hand over his friend's heart, he wept out loud, "I will miss you so much. You were my best friend." And, as we walked out, I wondered why they had never said that to each other while they were both alive. It hit me that they had never hugged or said, "Hey, I love you. You're a great friend."

You lost a great friend this past year also. How are you coping with your Mom's passing and have you learned anything about yourself through this loss?

Some days, I think I'm coping beautifully. Then, there are moments where I feel I haven't even started. I was driving home the other night, and the moon was very odd with clouds in front of it. And, it took me back to the last time I took my Mom outdoors just so the two of us could look at the moon together. I had to pull my car over and really sob. I just let emotion happen. It has been a journey to allow myself that. It was also something my Mom encouraged in me. You know, my Mom could call me on my shit like nobody else. One word. One glance. And, I miss that. I miss her and I miss that.

What are other ways you vent pent up emotion?

Well, I discovered punching a wall is not one of my better options. That was one painful pattern I am happy to move beyond. Now, I think all that I do in my life is my way of venting. I'm teaching others what I need to learn. Tai Chi helps me to slow down, breathe and focus. Beach volleyball allows me to fly through the air and get rowdy .....

That's multi-tasking in a new light. Sounds like you're harnessing the energy of anger in a healthy way.

I used to be really worried about the angry side of me and letting people know it exists. Many people can't believe it's there. But, my inner circle has seen it, and knows its definitely there. It's important for men…. It's important for ME to acknowledge that, "Hell yeah, I am angry about blah, blah, blah!" Because if you don't bring it to light and work it out of your system, it comes out in other ways, whether you like it or not.

What kind of people stand the test of time as friends of Scott Cole?

People who are accountable. I enjoy an eclectic group of friends. But, definitely the common thread is that I want to be surrounded by people who are dependable, available, and loving---and I want to provide those qualities for my friends.

What are your personal struggles in developing your own integrity?

I have to thank a Hawaiian healer named Kalili who taught me to say, "I've had a slip in magnificence," rather than, "I have made a mistake." I like this interpretation because all of us are sweet works-in-progress, and yet, are also Divine as we are. The integrity component is being able to admit our slips in magnificence. People of integrity embrace the desire to work through conflict with an underlying state of love. Developing my own integrity has been about being accountable, increasing my verbal skills, inviting patience, opening up emotionally---and learning to LISTEN..

As a fitness and health guru, any thoughts on your own growing older in our youth-obsessed culture?

I believe in Peter Pan. (Laughs) The internal child stays alive as long as you feed your curiosity and zest for life..... We have laws of nature. We have gravity. Our culture encourages temporary fixes with nips and tucks. Fighting gravity? Not a smart move, and most often, not a pretty one. It is an individual choice, and "aging gracefully" is quite subjective. I don't really fear it, I am just amazed at how quickly time passes.

Hey, Audrey Hepburn supposedly refused to have plastic surgery. And, she really was beautiful even in her final years.

There are certain things about the aging process that I'm okay with---wisdom, confidence, becoming less and less concerned about what people think. Plus, I embrace new levels of physicality every day. Plastic surgery is not on my radar at this point---plus, I don't really even like plastic, it's toxic <grin>....not real keen on "surgery" either.

You too? I thought that was my line.

There's a youthful-at-all-costs game thing going on in our society that I choose not to participate in or encourage. In martial arts like Tai Chi, there are many examples of people well into their 70's, 80's, and 90's who are youthful and still have that vitality in their eyes, and stellar movement in their bodies. So, I've decided to just stay in the moment with growing older and savor the spiritual depth that comes with it.

We've talked a lot about integrity in you. Where do you think men as a whole are at with it in our society?

I think modern men are split between new and old role models. The newer conscious self-actualized guys are multi-dimensionally healthy and inquisitive, able to enjoy their own distinctive balanced identities, tapping into true power of words and actions, understanding karma and accountability, while providing insightful positive energy to counteract the old model of "men"---historically dogmatic, arrogant, controlling, bigoted, and stagnant.

Any men stand out as good role models?

There are men writing beautiful, sensitive things. Dan Millman, who wrote The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, comes to mind. I admire men who have a passionate vision and they do it. They make it happen and simultaneously explore the depths of their own intelligence and emotions. Great athletes move me too---Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Karch Kiraly, all tops of their game.

There will only be one Scott Cole… one You… ever. Who do you want him to be?

I'm still deciding that, and am allowing that to emerge. There was a time when I was all about making lists and setting goals. Now, I think more about being in the moment and being available, allowing the Universe to directly influence me. Kind of a motivation and inspiration balance---with a Yang drive and a Yin grounded-ness. I want him to be kind, graceful, quietly focused, funny, powerful, and compassionate.

What are you afraid of?

Not completing all of the beautiful projects that I have in my heart. I'm afraid of getting so discouraged that I don't create anymore. Like… compassionate disillusionment. Sometimes I allow the fear and shutdown of other people to upset me---I feel so sad that they can't communicate that I take it on myself to very stressful levels instead of allowing it to roll off....I am a recovering "fixer," so at some level I fear not being able to "fix" everything in time <laughs>.

Stripping off all the layers, who are you under the accolades, TV appearances, celebrity mingling?

My goofy silliness is not always visible. I like to have fun. My fundamental rule is, "If it isn't fun, I don't want to do it."

Any other misconception people have about you?

When they first meet me, they immediately apologize for their abs and think I am going to judge their physical appearance. And, the reverse is really true. I'm a very compassionate, loving person. The last thing I can imagine doing is making fun of someone physically.

Anything really piss you off?

People taking advantage of other people. I also get really mad when people treat the Earth like an ash tray or trash can. I have been known to stop in traffic, get out of my car, and throw a cigarette butt or a fast food bag BACK into the car it came from.

You went on quite the China adventure.

Yes I did and it was incredible. The children were so beautiful. Just the light in their eyes. In doing the work I do with Get Fit America for Kids, it's been a sluggish and difficult process. In China, the kids are so enthusiastic and just bouncing around like balls of energy. They eat pretty clean and don't consume all the sugary, processed stuff we have here.

Aside from the children, anything else stand out?

I realized the immense scope of their healing and martial arts. From reflexology to Chinese medicine and acupuncture---we had incredible foot massages every day, and wow, does it make a difference. China also has extreme levels of martial arts, both marvelously slow and lightning quick, that are dimensions beyond anything we practice in the U.S.

Talk to me about women.

I grew up with women---spending a lot of time around my Mom and two older sisters. Women come on to me all the time and I know it's because I "get" them. I understand women. I love women, and have been creating programs for women for over 20 years now. I love to dance with women, feel the sensitivity of women, embrace the wisdom of women, and also love feeling that I play a positive role in empowering women.

In the lecturing that you do, do men open up to you as well?

Men do open up to me, a lot, especially in my Tai Chi workshops, where the movements that we do have a magical way of opening up both the spiritual and psychological sides. Men inevitably come alive, are open to hugging, touching, laughing, partnering, and I can tell they really love having that opportunity. I get very tender, kind, beautiful e-mails and communication from men of all ages, shapes, sizes, and orientations.

Define "Man"

A true man is comfortable with himself. And, in finding that comfort, one becomes compassionate to all people. This includes compassion for men who are attracted to other men. Women who are attracted to other women. You also become compassionate to your own desires and how or when or not to act upon them.

Do you feel men would opt for more intimate bonds if society were more accepting?

I think we often feel deep bonds for people, male and female, who have moved us in one way or another. And, with that often comes attraction that we don't usually act upon. I personally think, if given free reign, and if our culture were more tolerant, people would cross the lines and explore more sexually and emotionally. And, the reason we don't is because we buy into society's labels of, "Oh, no way! If I do that I'm gay," or "If I do that, I'm bi, " or "I'm going back to being straight by bringing a woman back into my life." And, all the while, all these things we fear keep us from discovering who we really are. The discovery process of loving can be so much fun if we let it be.

You don't like labels very much, do you?

Labels are what get us all into trouble because they put us into little boxes and separate us. I can't stand it when someone says, "Well, I'm a Christian" or "I'm a homosexual." To me we are all so much bigger than any of these labels. And, if you remove the labels, it puts us all on the same playing field. I like the Taoist Way of just "Being."

Final thoughts? How about your life's mission?

To be happy. To be extra-ordinarily happy. When we are happy, everything falls into place, and we truly become an inspiration through our joy.