"Do a good job, Trace, but not too good of a job." I was told that once, from a photographer I had worked with many years ago, when I was starting out. Considering the incredible attention to detail and painstaking work on set we achieved to create the highest quality commercial images, I was a little surprised. I guess I had garnered the reputation of being a perfectionist around the studio.
Truth be told I was. What I needed to learn was just when perfectionism was required, and when good was required. An earlier post I did about Steve Jobs and pursuing excellence touched on a bit of this. I love how in the behind-the-scenes making of the "Lord Of The Rings" films, I think it was in reference to the tensions over whether director Peter Jackson would deliver the final film in time for the premier, Jackson made the point, "Of course I'm going to deliver the film on time. It would be irresponsible filmmaking not to deliver on time..." But then he added, with a gesture of his thumb and forefinger, "but you have to deliver it just in time!" That is the mark of a perfectionist who knows the lesson of just what constitutes the idea of perfect.
Of course, there really is no "perfect", only a notion of your absolute best effort, and the time it takes. I do believe though, that in this day and time, too much of "good enough" is now the gold standard. Learning the craft of photography, and a striving for excellence (a rather subjective term, I admit) has been supplanted by the easy solution and the shortest time to get from A to B. I don't mind easy solutions and short time results when they exhibit the elegance of excellent craft. I see so many photographers without an understanding of what real craft is, and sadly, little interest in achieving it.
If you can look at your own and others work, and recognize when you have achieved your very best, and understood how and why that came about, then you are certainly on your way. Striving for better, your better, is to be in the company of perfectionists who never achieve perfect, but the highest form of "truly good" work.