Just as there is no such thing as the perfect camera settings, there is no definitive road to being a professional photographer. It varies for everyone based on what they're specific goals are.
I recently read a quote from Amanda Palmer who put it rather succinctly.
"There’s no correct path to becoming a real artist. You might think you’ll gain legitimacy by going to university, getting published, getting signed to a record label. But it’s all bullshit, and it’s all in your head. You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected."
Once you are in the business, it helps to form your own guidelines to navigate the peaks and valleys of the industry. Sticking with the no-nonsense theme, I came across Molly Crabapple's "15 rules for creative success in the Internet age". Her insight comes from over eight years of professional experience as a successful artist. While the entire piece is worth reading, and re-reading, one of my favorites is #5.
"I've never had a big break. I've just had tiny cracks in this wall of indifference until finally the wall wasn't there any more."
As for the title, it's an homage to the fabulous song from Mates of State. Enjoy!