Take it from former Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett: 'Have the confidence to swirl'

PHOTO: Take It From Me feat. Valerie JarrettPlayABC News Photo Illustration
WATCH Former Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett: 'Have the confidence to swirl'

Valerie Jarrett has the answer to the question we all want answered. "What are the Obamas really like?"

"They are what you see," Jarrett told "Good Morning America." "You actually know them very well and I think that's part of their magic."

Of course, we can't know them as well as Jarrett, who not only served as the senior adviser to President Barack Obama for eight years, but was fortunate enough to hire a then-Michelle Robinson in 1991 to work in Mayor Richard M. Daley's office.

It was an offer Robinson's then-fiance, Obama, thought she should refuse.

"Her fiance didn't think it was such a good idea," joked Jarrett. "The three of us had dinner and I think that dinner forged the beginning of what has turned into a lifelong friendship."

It's one thing to serve the president of the United States, but it's another to serve one that you've known and loved for more than a decade.

"Mrs. Obama said being president hasn't changed who he is, it's revealed who he is and I think that's true," said Jarrett. "It's really what you see is what you get."

Speaking of revealing, Jarrett's new tell-all book "Finding My Voice" explores how her success is the mark of pushing herself outside of her comfort zone, something Jarrett has had to do often throughout her adventurous life.

PHOTO: Valerie Jarrett meeting Pope Francis during his visit to the White House. Pete Souza, Courtesy Barack Obama Presidential Library
Valerie Jarrett meeting Pope Francis during his visit to the White House.

"Sometimes the shortest distance to where you want to go, is the longest way around," Jarrett told "GMA." "As you go through that adventure off the beaten track is where life gets exciting and the magic happens."

There is a lot of magic in Jarrett's life. From her extensive career in government to raising a daughter as a single mother, Jarrett opened up about the key moments during her adventurous life and what she's learned along the way.

1. Be present in the moment

PHOTO: Valerie Jarrett and her daughter Laura Jarrett with President Obama on election day in 2008. David Katz 2008
Valerie Jarrett and her daughter Laura Jarrett with President Obama on election day in 2008.

"It was an amazing day, one I'll never forget," Jarrett said about the day Obama was elected president of the United States in 2008. "What strikes me about that day is that you have to be present in the moment."

When you spend most of your time with the most powerful person in the country, it seems like it would be a challenge to not be present. But for Jarrett, getting one of her closest friends into office and sharing it with her daughter Laura was a true "pinch me" moment.

"We'd worked so hard for so long," exclaimed Jarrett. "There were probably one hundred times that day where I just had a pinch-me moment and I said, 'Remember this always, treasure the moment.'"

2. Have the confidence to swirl

PHOTO: Valerie Jarret hugs her father in this undated photo. Valerie Jarrett
Valerie Jarret hugs her father in this undated photo.

"Well now you're going to make me cry," said Jarrett about this photo of her and her late father.

Jarrett's dad, fortunately, lived to see her become a senior adviser to the president, something she is grateful for.

"When my father finished the Army, he was looking for a job in the U.S. and he couldn't find a job where he would be paid equivalent to his white counterparts," said Jarrett.

Her father found work in Shiraz, Iran, where Jarrett was born. The family eventually made their way back to the States, moving to Chicago in 1963. Jarrett was just 6 years old.

"He taught me to have the confidence to swirl," said Jarrett. "I didn't have it as a young adult but it's something that I had to learn to do and I think he helped instill that in me."

3. Don’t fall in love with a fantasy

PHOTO: Valerie Jarrett with her parents on her wedding day in 1983. Ballintine Photographers
Valerie Jarrett with her parents on her wedding day in 1983.

"So this is a photo of my wedding day, absent from the photo is my husband," laughed Jarrett.

The former senior adviser tied the knot in 1983 to William Robert Jarrett and they divorced four years later.

"When I finished college, I made a 10-year plan," said Jarrett "I was going to get a great job, fall in love, have a baby before 30 and live happily ever after."

Jarrett said she married, figuratively, "the boy next door."

"What could go wrong? It should have been the perfect marriage," said Jarrett.

Of course, plenty could go wrong, especially when Jarrett realized she fell in love with a fantasy.

"I've never felt lonelier than in an unhappy marriage," said Jarrett. "So you might think that marriage is going to complete you but it doesn't. You actually have to be a whole person first and not look for someone else to make you whole."

4. Be open to transparency

PHOTO: Valerie Jarrett with the Obamas at the Presidents last state of the union. Pete Souza, Courtesy Barack Obama Presidential Library
Valerie Jarrett with the Obamas at the President's last state of the union.

The above photo was taken at Obama's last State of the Union address ... an emotional day for Jarrett.

"I'd had the honor of going to all of them, and before each one he'd have a well wish from his wife and I think that one was particularly poignant since we knew it was his last," said Jarrett.

According to Jarrett, the authenticity we feel toward the Obamas that we see pictured in this photo holds true in real life.

"They're not afraid to show people who they are," said Jarrett. "I think what they've both developed is a relationship with the American people and people around the world."

5. Be present in your friendships

PHOTO: Valerie Jarrett kicks back on the stairs with President Obama before an event. Pete Souza, Courtesy Barack Obama Presidential Library
Valerie Jarrett kicks back on the stairs with President Obama before an event.

Jarrett was happy to see the photo she'd had hung on her White House office wall for many years.

"It was taken early on in his presidency," she said. "We were at the end of a very long day where he was giving speech after speech after speech."

The pair decided to kick back on the stairs and shoot the breeze before Obama had to take the stage again.

"He was as comfortable on those stairs with people busying around behind him as he would be just about anywhere," said Jarrett.

In this photo, they don't look like a president and his adviser -- they look like old friends.

"I think that's what friendship is about. It's about being present in each other's lives wherever you are."

You can read an excerpt from Jarrett's book, "Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward" below.

PHOTO: Cover of the book, Finding My Voice by Valerie Jarrett. Viking/ Penguin Random House
Cover of the book, "Finding My Voice" by Valerie Jarrett.

"Over the span of the next thirty years, my career took what many would think was a zigzag, not a trajectory upward. Some might call it a step down to go into city government, but I did it, as a staff lawyer, and then rose to be a cabinet member for a mayor. I would be a CEO and a board chair to several organizations and always looked for ways to advocate for equality and civic engagement.

"Those experiences each prepared me to spend eight years in President Obama’s White House, where I was the longest-serving senior adviser to any president in history. All while I raised Laura as a single mom, marveling at how she found her own confident voice, had the courage to also change careers in pursuit of her passion, and had the good sense to marry a man who reminds me of my dad."

"People assume I always knew where I was going and the path I would take, but the truth is, for a long time, I knew neither."

"What follows is the story of how I found my voice and learned to trust it—a voice that went from barely audible, even to me, to one I hope has been a catalyst for change, and has been a source of strength and empowerment for others. My journey has been exhilarating, challenging, and yes, at times, very painful, but what an adventure!"

From FINDING MY VOICE by Valerie Jarrett, published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2019 by Embarcadero LLC.