Valerie Jarrett: What I’ve Learned

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

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.