I doubt any two people do it the same way, but ultimately it comes down to practise, practise & more practise.
Remember the old adage, that it takes 10,000 hours to become expert at something. [That's 5 years, working a 40-hour week]
Personally, I spent 7 years as a jobbing musician before ever touching a recording desk.
I then started with what at the time was 'entry-level', a 4-track tape recorder.
These days, forget that & go straight for a DAW - but, don't be fooled into thinking that owning every plugin available is going to make you 'better'. Learn one at a time, spend a month with it at least.
After a couple of years doing that, at demo level, I got the break into major studio work; as a session player & singer not an engineer, but I spent that time watching & listening to what the pros were doing. At the same time, I was improving my own hardware & continuing to make home demos.
After about 5 years of that I was being asked by production houses to work with their brand new artistes in development work. Another 5 years of that & I think I had it cracked.
The closest I've ever been to any University structure was when I was asked to provide one with some demo recordings they could use to teach their students mic & EQ technique. Last I heard, that material was still being used, 20 years after I first recorded it.
The moral of this story is: no matter which route you take, it's not going to be a one-year learning curve.
Truth be told, I never did make a #1 record… but I did play on one ;)