Twins used their ADHD to become millionaires

Posted April 24

Twin brothers Mark and Mike Patey, both dyslexic, both diagnosed with ADHD and both inclined to get into trouble at school, were determined to prove they could offer the world something great.

They started their first business as teenagers. Since then, they’ve had the Midas touch with businesses as diverse as discount retail, health care and electric cars. They also build their own planes. They've flown them together and broken the transcontinental world speed record for internal combustion aircraft. Mark has written the book, “Addicts and Millionaires.”

When they were just 15 years old, the Patey twins knew exactly what they wanted. Getting it was the problem. Their neighbor was selling a sweet Honda ATC 185 three-wheeler, but the boys didn’t have $800. Their parents, who had 11 mouths to feed, didn’t have the money either.

But their dad had taught his boys that there was a solution to every problem.

This mindset helped them see an opportunity when they worked on a deck for their sister’s wedding. The twins weren’t paid for their labor, but that didn’t matter. They learned how to build a deck. The boys, barely old enough for a minimum wage job, started knocking on doors. Somebody out there wanted what they had to offer.

Such determination is rare in a teenager, but especially singular for these twins, who both had run into trouble at school. But their parents, both therapists, gave their boys a sense of worth. Mark feels their confidence saved him.

When Mark was in fifth grade, he was moved to a resource class. Shortly after, he got in a fight with a neighbor who called him stupid. That night, Mark asked his dad if he was stupid.

“Son,” his dad said. “You are a child of God, with infinite worth.” And no, he assured Mark, he was not stupid. The next day Mark was moved back to his old class. And now that they were trying to launch their decking business, their dad's confidence would be critical. The twins had been going door-to-door for three weeks. Nobody was interested. But then one man listened to their pitch and said, “Hey, aren’t you Ken Patey’s boys? Hold on! Let me call your dad.” Their dad assured him he was in good hands, and the twins were given the green light. Word got around. Soon they had more work than they could handle. They hired their friends and then several crews to help with the work.

Always innovative, they realized they could make more money if they drew a circle on the deck plans and asked their customers if they would like a hot tub. A lot of them did.

One of Mark’s high school teachers asked him for a job. His guidance counselor, who knew nothing of Mark’s business, suggested that construction would be a realistic career option for him.

Despite all of Mark’s success, the counselor’s advice stung. When it came to academics, Mark still felt not up to snuff. He tried college only to drop out three months later.

That didn’t stop him and Mike from starting RecWorld, a discount retail store that sold anything from motorhomes to pool tables. Then there was UROC, a business that promoted off-road events and landed a regular show on ESPN.

Perhaps the Patey twins are gifted guys who just happen to have ADHD, but Mark Patey insists he owes his success to his ADHD.

“Every invention I’ve ever had,” he says, “was a distraction.” He adds, “We were so outside the box that we couldn’t even find the box to get back in it.”

Still, Mark knows how to focus when he’s working on something he loves. He can spend hours studying new material and building prototypes until his next idea becomes a reality.

Both Mark and Mike say their parents were an intergral part of their success. Their mother, Sharon, didn’t scold them when they forgot to do something or when they lost their homework. While she valued routine and helped keep them on track, she didn’t shame them when they got distracted. She understood that their minds truly operated differently. Their minds were a gift.

Their father, Ken, always believed in their unique abilities. He recently said, “We need the ADHD brain that settled America, the adventure part of the brain, the brain not afraid to take risk. It’s what allowed them to walk into the wilderness and settle it.”

Mark’s and Mike’s parents literally did let their boys go into the wilderness. People dropped their junk off at an uninhabited area nearby, and the boys rummaged for treasure. Sometimes they’d bring home a lawnmower. Sometimes they'd haul in a television set. They’d take their new find apart and put it back together again until they understood how the machine worked. Then they would take it apart and improve it. They built and raced and crashed their own go-karts. Their mother would worry about them. Their dad assured her everything would be all right. And it was. The boys were given the freedom to fail. Failure helped them learn and would later help them grow their businesses. When Mark was doing demos for their health care records company, he often couldn’t answer his customer’s questions. He would say, “I don’t know, let me write that word down.”

The customer, incredulous that Mark didn’t already know the meaning of a word commonly used in the industry, would ask how he could take Mark seriously.

Mark would respond, “You won’t, but the next guy will because I’ll know what all of these words are.”

A year later, Mark would find himself as the keynote speaker at health care conferences. He feels he got this opportunity because he wasn’t afraid to look stupid if it meant that he could learn something.

His demanding speaking schedule presented another challenge. He was wasting too much time in airports.

Being the problem solver that he was, he figured he should learn to fly. Flying has now become his favorite hobby. (He went through a knitting phase but quit when he knit his sixth and first wearable sweater. He also went through a skiing phase until moguls got boring.)

Mark and Mike Patey love messing around with their planes too. They are redesigning wings and adding some heft to a tail so that the plane won’t actually fall apart on them when they fly it. It's a real issue since they just put in a new turbo engine with twice the power.

In 2011, they broke the transcontinental world speed record for an internal combustion aircraft, and they accomplished it while flying in flight formation.

When Mark realized that many of his friends at the hangar, also millionaires, had ADHD, he decided to write a book. “Addicts and Millionaires" helps people with ADHD embrace their creativity while showing them how to manage their distractibility. It's packed with pictures, checklists, graphics and jokes — anything to keep easily distracted people focused on the book. While Mark recognizes tremendous potential, he also warns about the risks. He sees those with ADHD as outliers. Many are on either end of the bell curve; some find great success while others end up in prison. While people with ADHD can be creative, Mark says they are more susceptible to addiction because they struggle with low self-esteem and their active brains need constant stimulation. Mark admits that he is a video game addict. Seven years ago, he started a game and didn’t do anything else for two weeks until he beat it. He realized he had a problem and hasn’t played a video game since.

This double-edged sword is acknowledged by Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, who wrote the book, "Driven to Distraction." Hallowell says that having ADHD “is like having a powerful race car for a brain but with bicycle brakes.”

Mark, however, has been able to harness this power. He dives into a new project with a single-minded passion, devouring all content whether it comes from a textbook, a magazine or YouTube. ***********

Mark’s Robinson R44 helicopter is sleek gray machine that looks like it came right out of a science-fiction movie.

The ascent feels nauseating. Getting so close to Y Mountain is terrifying. “We have to get a lot closer to the mountain when we are doing search and rescue,” he says. He and Mike have been deputized and regularly go out in their helicopter to help Utah County's search and rescue team.

He point out his house below. “For our New Year’s Eve party,” he explains, “We built an ice-rink in our backyard.” Because who wouldn’t build an ice-rink in their backyard for their winter party?

Becky Blackburn is the mother of five children and is a native of Price, Utah. She graduated from BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School. Contact her at


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