Valerie Jarrett: What I've Learned

The senior adviser to President Obama reflects on the personal lessons that have brought her success.

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Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, arrives for the inauguration in 2013. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett spoke with Esquire about the personal anecdotes and advice that she's used throughout her life. 

Anytime I was hesitant about taking a chance, my grandmother would say, "Valerie, put yourself in the path of lightning."

I was the first person in my family to become a lawyer. I was working on the seventy-ninth floor of the Sears Tower. I had a great office overlooking the sailboats on Lake Michigan. But I was miserable. A friend advised me to think about city government. I was hesitant -- I was on my path and, miserable as I might be, it was my path. But Harold Washington had become the first black mayor of Chicago, and I made the move. I got a cubicle ... with a window facing an alley. That was a little jarring. But as soon as I stepped in that cubicle, I felt This is where I belong. I was working with people who shared a common passion in their love for the city. I thought, Hey, I can get used to this cubicle.

Just because you're nervous doesn't mean you have to look nervous. Nobody can look inside you. Project what you want to project.

I was doing an interview on a panel of women. The question was, Is it more important for a woman to be respected or liked? My view is you can actually be both -- if you add being decent.

Read more at Esquire.

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