He who would climb the ladder must begin at the bottom

There are no short cuts in the climbing of a ladder; one can reach the top only by going rung by rung. In a figure sense a ladder is a means of rising in the world or attaining one’s object, and here again the ascent is not rapid but in stages. A young man cannot become chairman of the company overnight; he must start as a junior clerk and work his way up step by step.

We speak also of ‘getting a foot on the ladder of success.’ This means ‘getting a first opportunity to rise to fame,’ e. g. ‘He got his foot on the ladder of success when he was given the part of Romeo at the New Theatre in 1935.’