The Shifting Sands Of Success


Charles White




Success. It’s an illusion that haunts most people. For most, success is a mirage that people see as they thirst for something better, something different. As the sands shift, so to does the mirage of success. Jill Phillips was lucky. She saw beyond the mirage to the Truth and the Light.

Jill Phillips grew up in Chesapeake, Virginia, a medium-sized town located in southern Virginia.  It was there that she began her love affair with music: performing in church and school choirs, participating in band and studying the piano. Looking back, Jill realizes that she was blessed with a great church, great friends and a wonderful family. Because she was surrounded with so many strong role models, Jill was spared some of the pain and pressures that many teens have to face.

“I was lucky that we had a great youth group and I had great friends in school that were making similar choices so I didn't feel like an oddball,” Jill explained. “I really looked up to certain teachers or people in my life that seemed to take me under their wing.  There was one Sunday school teacher in particular that really looked out for all the senior girls and that meant so much to me.  Even if you are close with your parents sometimes people outside your family can have an enormous positive influence on your life.”


After graduating high school, Jill attended Belmont University in Tennessee to pursue a career in music. Although passionate about music, Jill never saw herself as a stage performer. Instead, she thought she’d take a secondary role in her music career, such as a teacher or music minister.   “I came to Belmont to study music but was never quite sure how I would use it,” Phillips explained.  “I think I always loved singing and music but didn't really believe I would have a career as a performer.  I was shy on stage and didn't even start writing my own songs until college, so I always thought I could teach or work in a church or even be a studio singer... something that wasn't quite so front and center.”  

However, Jill Phillips was destined for much greater things. Although she never actively pursued a record deal, Jill found herself with the opportunity of a lifetime when David Estes, then an executive with Word Records, attended a writer’s night at Belmont University and heard Phillips perform. Soon after her performance, Jill was invited to perform for a group at Word Records. It was only after the fact that she realized how important this performance was. “I had no idea who I was singing to,” recalls Jill in a previous interview with “And then later, someone said it was the president and nearly every person from the label.”  

Within six months after graduating from college, Jill was married and signed to a major record deal with Word records. It seemed she was well on her way to commercial success. However, that all seemed to change when Jill, realizing that Word Records just wasn’t the right fit for her, severed ties with the label and decided to pursue her music career as an independent artist. In 2001, Phillips released her first album as an independent artist aptly titled, God and Money and garnered critical acclaim for the project. In 2002, her work on God and Money earned her an award for Best Independent Artists of the Year by the readership of CCM Magazine.  

Following her success as an independent musician, Phillips decided it was time to begin work again with a record label. She spent a great deal of time talking with many of the major record companies and settled on Fervent Records, the label that she connected to best. Her latest album as part of the Fervent family entitled, Writing on the Wall, showcases her incredible talent and hints at the vast array of artists who have served as her inspiration throughout the years such as James Taylor, Rich Mullins, and Aimee Mann.  

Her new album showcases her incredible musical talent, her deep passion for music and her strong faith. “My goal is to do everything to the best of my ability unto the Lord so that He can use it in whatever way He sees fit,” Jill states.  “Musically I want to feel passionately about the things I am singing. Sometimes music speaks in a way that nothing else can. It is always an amazing thing when the songs are used to speak to people, sometimes in ways that I never even intended in writing them.”  

This deep love of both music and her family are reflected in Jill’s definition of success. For Phillips, success is all about focusing on the important things in life.I have met so many people who were “really popular” in school. Years later, they were reaping the consequences of some bad choices that they made when they were young.  They often wish they could go back and do things differently.”

“I think success is being content with where you are and also living in such a way that your time is spent on the things that are most important to you in life.  If I say my family is the most important thing but I have to sacrifice that to be gone all the time or make a ton of money that is definitely not a kind of success that I want. I would never want to have commercial success if it meant compromising that in any way.”  

Looking back, many of the things that we think are important often seem trivial years from now. Jill realizes this and reminds young adults to focus on what’s important: family, friends and their relationship with God. “I would love to remind them that the things that seem so important when you are in school are often so temporary and fleeting.  Put your heart and mind into the things that last- your relationship with God, a good name, integrity, honesty, and a good education.”