The Favor Bank


  1. Laura says:

    Is Favor bank one of the rules that freezes peoples real development or is it a good thing, because we can’t go on alone, without other people around us?

  2. Paola Rhoden says:

    Após ler esse livro, fiz um texto citando o ‘banco de favores’. Mas além disso, a linda história de amor e de busca, me fez chorar. Abs.

  3. Maranyeline says:

    Hola,siento una gran atraccion por leer todos sus libros, en base a Banco de los favores, pienso que el escritor tiene toda la razon, uno sabe que le deben un favor asi nunca lo diga y es incomodo cuando esa persona sabiendo en el fondo que tiene esa deuda no cumple con el pago, verdaderamente son cosas que se saben sin proonunciar palabra alguna y en el camino que recorre la vida se encargara de pasarle sus cuentas. Me encantaria que Paulo Cohelo haga sus apreciaciones en Español o que coloquen la traducción. gracias.

    Para El Escritor mi respeto amor y admiracion.

  4. raichu says:

    while reading this, i just realize how funny it is that we are driven by an unsaid rules of the favor bank… we don’t talk about it but somehow we feel oblige to return favors and we feel or look bad if we don’t return what was “invested”

  5. Marion Rose says:

    I was impressed with the way you define the idea of a favour bank. Inherently (like all good ideas) we can easily relate to and see its practical application.

    I tried (unsuccessfully) to communicate a similar concept to a soul mate of mine once-upon-a-time. And subsequently (though perhaps not consequentially) I spent a night tragically similar to “the writer” in Geneva as I mourned the loss (a chance of shared fates). Well phrased in the “oppressive, distressing, loneliness” as I was alienated from the only person I knew in that city, but worse than that the grief of love, he was closest to my heart.

    Anyway The idea I tried to convey was that of usefulness. How we each need to be needed, useful in this world. And we how we each Use others. And our use of them should honour them, their particular uniqueness and talents .

    Nowadays we’re being isolated, by concepts of personal freedoms, independence, taught not to trust or rely on each other. Taught to have personal ambition, discard the past and move on. Nuclear families rejecting our elderly, everyone out for themselves… Its not surprising that often, or upon retirement, many die because they perceive they no longer have a use in society or to others. The will to live goes.
    We are all useful, and to offer such assistance is in itself a benefit, knowing we matter, are useful -to others in this world!

    And I believe the difficulties expressed with the favour bank – the difficulties to receive and rely on others are for similar reasons as those of independence, and personal pride/ambitions.
    I say this because I passed up many of those opportunities in College. I believed that taking help then would have compromised self, not just the sexual overtures, but the genuine help offered too.
    Because you have to trust the lender, inasmuch as they place their faith in you. It requires mutual regard, where suspicion and distrust are more oft what we were taught!
    People have an agenda, and if you don’t know what eventually will be asked of you, distrust is natural, especially across cultural barriers, especially in the naiveté of youth, the age divide and not enough years to recognise sincere.

    Anyway I know I failed in describing Use – as the honouring of each other. Feeling used is the lack of honour and trust in each other.
    But Use – giving someone a purpose, especially in a crisis allows them to do something, ie to challenge grief and despondency into motivated, creative, action.

    May I be of use within the favour bank but more importantly be comfortable with receiving help.
    For now I can acknowledge how useful others are -I honour their authentic, open-hearted unique attributes and honour their existence by accepting their help.
    However it is still a challenge to me, having been independent and taught to rely only on myself. But sometimes you need to be brought low to learn how inter-dependant we are by design.
    Life has a complex pattern, the interweaving is the richness of that fabric.
    I hope this is a useful thread!
    Marion Rose

    1. Koi Tirima says:

      Hi Marion:
      I’m reading your post several years after you wrote it and I hope you request to the universe to be more engaged in the favor bank have been supplied.

      I like the question posted at the beginning of the paosts… does the favor bank limit development or not? I think the link between both your post and the question at the top are very salient ofr me, for my country Kenya, and for development.

      When we are too bogged down by competition to look. be, seem better than the next guy, then we are inhibited from asking/ seeking for help; that unmerited favor from some else who has no reason to inverst into our lives or causes. It ia humbling to ask and seek such help. For many professional and leaders it is translated as a lack of capacity.

      I find that in our time, innovation and real meaningful problem solving will only happen when we collaborate and give to one another. We must be willing to admit that we NEED each other. the challenge then also is that for they that give, not to expect a return necessarily from a perticular individual, but to adoptthe concept of paying forward and pray that the univerise which Coelho suggests conspires to help us reach our destiney once we choose to walk the pasth, will bring to us those favors we nedd just when we need them.

  6. Savita Vega says:

    The Favor Bank – oh, dear! Here is a lesson for me, because it definitely exists and yet I have tried so hard for most of my life to pretend that it doesn’t. I think this has something to do with being a Sagittarius – the Sag spirit of independence: wanting to think that, if I achieve something it is due to my own merits and not because someone did me a “favor.” Relying of the Favor Bank seems like cheating, which also grates against that other noted Sagittarian attribute – a keen sense of justice. It simply does not seem just, it doesn’t seem right that, in the end, it’s really all about who you know, how powerful or important they are, and how many favors they own you. I REALLY dislike the concept of the Favor Bank, and yet its existence is a fact of life that cannot be changed. This is where I need to learn a lesson: I need to learn to accept and utilize this Favor Bank to my advantage, rather than trying to pretend it isn’t there, or, worst yet, trying to go against it.

    This week: I say, “I need to take the car to a mechanic.” My dad says, “I know a very good mechanic….” But I don’t want to take the car there, because I know that the man only works on cars in his spare time and I won’t get it back for a week or more, even though the problem is small and could likely be fixed in a couple of hours. Furthermore, this mechanic isn’t even near my house, but an hour away. Yet my dad insists that this man will do a very good job, because he’s “known this man for years.” I know this phrase, which my dad frequently uses and I know what it means – it means that I am talking about mechanics, about getting my car fixed as quickly as possible, and he is talking about the Favor Bank. This man owes him a favor and he is ready to call in that favor and doesn’t want to pass up this opportunity to do so. Still I argue, “There are mechanics everywhere! Anyone can fix this problem. What’s wrong with just pulling into any one of these shops?!”

    In my mind, I am trusting in the Universe, trusting it to guide me to where I need to be – to the mechanic that will fix my car properly and not rip me off. But my father, he doesn’t speak this language, so I can’t say this to him. He, on the other hand, is trusting in the Favor Bank because, being an expert in its workings, he has no doubt in his abilities to utilize it to his advantage. He will get the car fixed for little or nothing, and then he can tick this man’s name off his list of people who owe him favors.

    So, here we have two very different modes of operation – trusting the Favor Bank vs. trusting the Universe to provide. These modes of operation extend far beyond the need to find a mechanic and permeate every aspect of our lives. On the one hand, we have my father, who, over his lifetime, has invested a great deal in the Favor Bank, particularly when, during a certain period of his life, he was quite affluent. Then, on the other hand, there is me, who has invested next to nothing in the Favor Bank, not because I don’t do favors for people, but because I absolutely refuse to call in those favors due to the fact that doing so negates the sense of joy that I attained in doing the favor to begin with. In other words, I do favors only when and because I want to, and ask nothing in return. I operate solely with faith in the Universe, believing that IT will help me when I need help, that IT will grant me the favors I need to fulfill my desires or to get ahead in life.

    This notion of the Favor Bank presents a great dilemma for me. In what do I place my faith? Is it possible to invest heavily in the Favor Bank, looking for returns there, and yet still follow the signs laid out by the Great Hand of the Universe, which I trust to lead me where I need to be and grant me everything that I need?

    Here is another example, and this one much more weighty than the search for a mechanic. Several years ago, I got a masters degree in creative writing. At this institution, there were certain professors (four in particular) who were eager to take me under their wing and “help” me, often times suggesting that they would be able to “help me” even beyond graduation. In other words, these were published writers themselves, some quite well known, who had spent a long time in the industry and who, obviously, had made many valuable contacts. I always wanted to believe that these professors wanted to help me, only because they liked my writing and found something in it of value. On the one hand, this was probably true – otherwise, they wouldn’t have bothered with me – and yet, the relationships which they proposed were much more complicated than that.

    At the university, these professors teach a great number of students – this is their job – but each writing professor also takes a select few students into their “inner circle” and works with them very closely in their writing, as well as in their efforts to publish. You can ask one of these professors if they have any hints about publishing or if they know anyone in the industry, if they have any contacts they might offer, and they will tell you that they know nothing. And yet, if you are in their “inner circle” – if you have been brought out of the classroom and invited into their office, or sometimes even their home – if you have been “tapped” as “their protege” (belonging to them and no one else), then there are many things that they might share with you, including their contact list in the publishing industry. They will help you, not only to become a “better writer” but to send your work off to the “right people.”

    I have even had professor suggest that I send my work of to a certain writing competition because he knew personally (and probably had a favor coming from) the judge. I shook my head “yes” but never sent in my submission, because to me, this would spoil everything. I wanted my work to win because it was the best, not because I knew someone who knew someone.

    So, why do professors (who themselves are widely published authors) do this? It is the Favor Bank. If you are one of their students and you do in fact show promise, then you immediately become a highly valuable commodity. You may not have anything of immediate value to offer in return for their favor, but you have potential and that is what they are interested in. Every professor (in fact, the entire department) knows which student or students “belong to” each professor. It is like having a label tattooed across your forehead: PROPERTY OF PROFESSOR X – DO NOT TOUCH. (Sometimes the professors even fight over these students, as everyone knows, a student cannot belong to two professors at once.) It is greatly to a professor’s advantage if they can “tap” a student who will in fact publish shortly after graduation. The more of their students (their private proteges) who publish, the more notoriety (and, thus, power) the professor gains within the university.

    This might all sound just great. I mean, why not invest in this Favor Bank if this is the way things work? After all, isn’t this the perfect open door into the publishing world? Well, yes and no. It is the perfect way, if all you really want is to be published. But, as with everything in life, there is a price to be paid for this. First of all, if you are published under these circumstances, there is the greatest price of all: The doubt that enters into your mind – is my book being published because it is good, due to its own merits, or is it being published because someone owes someone a favor? Secondly, there is the question of favors and how many and of what sort you are willing to do. Twice I had professors who were very interested in my writing and helping me get ahead with it, but who, as well, were interested in entering into a sexual relationship. One of these was married. Both of them I declined. Even in the case of the one who wasn’t married and whom, I must admit, I found somewhat attractive, I thought: I can’t do this because, if I do, if I enter into this and my work IS published, I will always wonder if my work is really good, or if I’m just good in bed. Then there was Professor Taskmaster, who had her pet projects, and who demanded an enormous amount of labor from her “favorites,” above and beyond their writing. This included everything from organizing and attending fund raisers to cooking for her and acting as assistant hostess at her private power parties, where of course there was always the promise of making important “contacts.” And then there is, of course, the last greatest favor of all which these professors often ask, and that is that you give yourself over to them wholly as a writer. You write what THEY want you to write, as THEY want you to write it. No questions asked – just do it, because they are the experts and they know what “good writing” is. The favor here, which you are doing for them, is simply boosting their ego.

    Yes, I suppose I sound rather cynical. (Probably because I am a lot like this main character in the Zahir – pissed off at everyone and anything, because I haven’t yet sat down and finished writing that book that needs to be written. The thing is that this character had his Esther, and Esther wasn’t asking for favors in return. She sought to drive him toward success out of purely selfless motives, solely because she knew that it was the best thing for him. Simply because she wanted to see him happy and fulfilled.) But, all that aside, I must say this: I still believe fully and wholeheartedly in the workings of the Universe. I believe that if I write what I want to write, the way I want to write it and if I follow the “signs” embedded along the path, when the time comes, when I have finished writing, I will send my work off to a publisher (seemingly at random), and it will be published.

    Is this foolishness, or what?!

    1. Paulo Coelho says:

      Dear Savita, I my opinion there was nothing wrong with your teacher. I would do the same if I could spot a talent in my classroom.
      And as for sexual propositons, you could simply say no. I am sure he would not insist – too dangerous.
      You don’t get anywhere if you don’t depend on people around you.

    2. Savita Vega says:

      Thank you, Paulo. I am just now learning this very valuable lesson in life. If I were to go back now into those situations, I am sure that I would behave very differently. I would be much more gracious in accepting the help offered me. Where I am from, we have this saying: “Don’t shoot your own foot off with the gun you’re carrying.” This is what I have done many times, trying to be too independent.

      With Love and Gratitude,

    3. Daniel says:

      Savita, from one sagittarius to another, getting help is never foolish! I spent 5 years in therapy figuring that out, you can have it for nothing! Also, because being sag you will appreciate a direct approach, if you wonder so much what it would be like to be a published writer who has used favours and help to get there, then just do it, then you can stop wondering so much!

      The universe will support you on your path, but sometimes the opportunities it presents need to be grasped I think. The middle path is important to me, possibly because of the same sagittarian traits you speak of! For me a path between the idealistic world and the materialistic world is working better than trying to live entirely in either.

      With love,


    4. Savita Vega says:

      Thanks, Daniel. I think you are right. I also think writing the post above actually helped me to work through some of that. As I was writing, this vision kept popping into my mind – me, standing on my own rooftop, surrounded by floodwaters, waiving away all the helicopters and boats, waiting for God to save me. (Do you know that story of Paulo’s? – The man on the rooftop who drowns because he is waiting for God to help him. But then when he dies and he is angry at God for not saving him as he promised, God says, “I sent help to you many times, but you refused it.”) That is me. Some of those teachers may well have been the helicopters and boats “sent from above,” but I, in my arrogance, waved them away: “No, I’m going to do this thing on my own. God is with me!”

      I think those two worlds you speak of are not entirely separate. I think, back then, I assumed they were.

      Nice to hear from a fellow Sagittarius!

      Much Love,

    5. Liz says:

      Savita, I am like you in many ways. It is hard for me to accept favours that people want to return, because i didnt do these favours because I expected them to be returned.
      You talked about the need to fix your car and waiting for the Universe to step in and fulfill your need. Didnt you ever think that maybe the mechanic that your dad suggested was the help that the universe sent? Why do we always have to look so far, answers are in front of our noses.
      I really think that The Favour Bank is an older generation thing and its time to rule is coming to an end. There are people who dont want to use it, it goes against their princibals. Why cant everyone just do a favor and expect nothing for return? It is guaranteed that if they need help, then Universe will send them some. Through people that you have helped or through strangers, but help will come.You just need to believe that.

    6. Heart says:


      Just give it to them, Damn it!

      Joking aside. I’ve been in similar position twice, with professors offering me ‘gold and green forests’ as we say in Norway, and when I did turn them down sexually, it meant giving up a Ph.d. grant/position. So, I didn’t reach as far academically as I could have, but I have my integrity and feel proud and happy that I did the right thing.

      Let me tell you of one of my co students, who accepted one of these proposals. She fell in love with her Masters degree tutor, a well known professor. She left her husband and three children and moved in with the professor, who left his wife and children. I visited my co student and the professor a few times, and they had a lot of fun, and she ended up publishing a text book, and everybody was happy (except probably not their ex partners and children). Well, soon thereafter, I got word…my co student who wrote a lot of feminist articles, had met an American female professor, had found out she is now a lesbian, and left the male professor, and moved on to the female professor and to another country. So, she sure is doing greatly career wise, and will probably have more books published and more academical accomplishments. But, I cannot but help thinking, she is doing the wrong thing, leaving her own children? I agree with you Savita, to obtain success, on behalf of moral integrity. I really don’t believe it’s worth it.

      Sure, I’m missing out on some social settings I could have been wandering in, and I agree with Paulo that we don’t get very far if we don’t depend on people around us. The question is, what people do we pick to depend on, and are we willing to act immorally to reach our dreams? I can say this; I wouldn’t have traveled as much as I have, if it wasn’t for generous men :)

    7. Savita Vega says:

      I think I know this professor you’re speaking of. Just joking, of course, but I do know that story. Another professor I knew, in a another department, did end up pursuing an affair with one of his students. As a result, his wife left him, with their two children, and he lost all possibility of ever gaining tenure. He very nearly lost his post altogether. Still, his name is always at the heart of all those hot little party circles where everyone gathers around to whisper about how their fellows “fallen from grace.” A shame too, because he is a very sweet man and an excellent teacher, not at all deserving of the mean-hearted rumors which follow him.

      In my case, I was very lucky in that, as Paulo suggested, the two professors who made such proposals to me were, on a certain level, just expressing a genuine interest. They weren’t bent on using their position to manipulate me into bed. Both were good humored enough to accept my refusal without imposing any consequences. The door was there, and it was open, but they did not say, “You have to sleep with me, or else…!” There was just the suggestion, at least with one of them, that if I did accept, I would get to join him at a lot of parties and events in distant cities, where there would be a lot of very important people.

      As you also mention though, I too have had some very wonderful experiences in life – particularly travel – that I would not have had, had it not been for generous men. (I know that doesn’t sound very nice, does it? – sounds like I’m saying I took advantage of someone, but that’s not what I mean.) But, also as you suggest, we just have to pick carefully who it is that we choose to depend on, because sometimes the offers of assistance are not made from the heart. It isn’t always easy to discern the strings that might be attached to such offers, and then we can become entangled in a web we wish we had never entered. But then there are times when we might look back and regret not having walked through a door while it was open for us. It is a fine line, to be sure, and a great art to be able to tell the difference.

      Thank you, Heart, for all of your kindness and wisdom.

      Much Love,

    8. Dear Savita, thanks for sharing all that. I’ve also had similar experiences.

      Once it was in college, I was studying to play the classic guitar. My instructor gave me one of his guitars because he said that I was a good student and very promising and he wanted me to practice more, so he gave me one of his guitars. I was So happy and honored. I know he liked me and we spent time talking and all, but he never made any sexual advances at all!

      Then a few other times was in ‘Hollywood’ I’ve had influential men approach me to support, provide opportunities, and further my career but always the sexual favor was demanded. Well, I of course turned them down not because I think there is anything wrong with that, or that I would never do such a thing, but I HAVE to be attracted to the person, and there HAS to be chemistry in order for me to be with a person. So since I wasn’t, it ended.

      So, I also agree with you Savita, that the universe conspires in our favor. Although I also don’t see anything wrong in someone trying to help another, in your case the professor. And there isn’t anything wrong with getting help publishing, and I don’t think that the question whether the material was good enough to be published or it got published because of the connection because if you were picked by the professor, then already the material Must have been good in the first place. I don’t think I’m doing such a good job at putting my thoughts down today… just seems like i’m not making it very clear… Writing… my mind has a mind of its own… haha..

      Thank you Savita and thank you Paulo!


    9. Savita Vega says:

      On the contrary, I think you make your point very clear, Carolena.

      As you suggest, in the case of such proposals, “chemistry” is key. If I felt that sort of chemistry with someone, I rather doubt that I would deny any sort of help that they might offer, in any form, because then I wouldn’t feel like I was just “using them” to get ahead. And that is something that is very important, I think. It is okay to use the Favor Bank, so long as the withdrawals you make do not compromise your sense of integrity. If I were attracted to someone or in love with him, he could do me all the favors he wished, because I would know in my own heart that I was with him because of this attraction and love, not simply for the favors he could do me. It is what I feel in my heart that matters the most – not what it looks like to people on the outside, not the idea “Oh, what will other people think?!” – because it is to my own heart that I must answer.

      I just don’t like to feel like I am taking advantage of others, just “using” them. Whenever that feeling enters, it is always enough to send me running in the opposite direction.

      Thank you, Carolena!


    10. And Thank you Savita,

      You said it beautifully as I feel and function that way as well!

      To me it’s just unfathomable to share my body with someone that I don’t have an attraction for. It’s just not possible with me. It does literally make me run the other way too!

      Hope you’re having a nice time Savita!

    11. Koi Tirima says:


      Reading your posts almost 2 years later, I findthat they are still very salient. Allow me to comment on ‘chemistry’. I believe that many times the varying degrees of chemistry we feel are based on a kind of recognition within our spirits – i think a resonance of a past soul mate? I like to think it is… and I think when we recieve and give becasue there is a chemistry, it is an honoring of that resonance. I don’t believe in abusing that chemistry, but in using it to stimulate and energize the change or development we need at that time of our lives.

      I have just been inspired by a ‘chemistry’ to bgin wriitng again and indeed, I am using the energy from this amazing soul to propel me forward. It is a favor that I beleive the univerise’s favor bank is investing in me for later recall with the same person or a different one. And knowing this person, as I am learning to, I suspect that there were many favors paid into them to help them get ot where they are today. However, I am certainlky enjoying the chemistry… it helped me pay attention; I could have so easily missed this warm current. And it makes making these late night readings and writings much easier.

  7. Sybil Daniel says:

    Thanx Paulo for teaching me so many things for my life which otherwise i couldnt learn. The concept of ‘favour bank’ is something tht we all need to learn and know. and we need to need to deposit our contacts in account in order to keep the balance.

  8. sidra says:

    i realy liked the way u described the favor bank concept!!!!
    i love the book!!

  9. Milagros V. says:

    ” El banco Favor”, es casi como hacer conneciones con el mundo, tener buenos tratos, y desear que algun dia esos depositos(o favores) que hicimos sean devueltos o compensados.

  10. cem cansu says:

    In Middle Asian beliefs, this is a very common thinking. What comes around, goes around. Or, so called, “karma”

    Thanks to Coelho for writing such a book that I can almost completely find my own journey within his story.

  11. Savita Vega says:

    Oh, dear Annie, I don’t mean to imply that I don’t accept favors from people or that I try to do everything in life alone – not at all. I hope it didn’t come out like that. I know that we need one another in life. But I also know that I actually enjoy doing favors for people, for no other reason than that it makes me feel good to help them, without asking anything in return. I like to think (and maybe this is where I am being too idealistic) that there are other people who likewise enjoy helping others without keeping accounts and later expecting to reap some reward in return.

    Certainly I would accept water if I were dying of thirst. I just like to think that someone would offer me that sip without calculating in their own minds what they might eventually extract from me as repayment.

    That said, I think you are right about the two modes going hand-in-hand or overlapping. Sometimes the Universe does reach out to assist us through the Favor Bank. But, unfortunately, there are also some very cut-throat people out there in the world who never do anything for anyone unless they can estimate some personal advantage from it (either present or future). In the end, they are out to help only themselves. Those people I try to steer clear of, because they will help you in one moment (when it is to their advantage) and stab you in the back the next (when it is to their advantage). Just as I wouldn’t borrow money from a “shifty” lender, I would be hesitant to make withdrawals from the Favor Bank offered by such a person.

    BTW: I get confused with those two reply buttons so close together myself.

    Much Love,